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America the Be"you"tiful

“That’s too much beautiful for one car,” the toll attendant told me and my friends (though we’re not that young or especially good looking), but flattered we were. And when I think back on this sweet compliment, I am reminded of how “we” look better when surrounded by others.

The power of “we.”

Standing alone and looking at ourselves – which surveys say women do between 7 and 70 times a day and men about a quarter of that time– is a recipe for criticism. Whereas looking at a picture with you and your friends usually brings a smile to your face. There are probably short ones and tall ones; blonde ones and brunettes; simply dressed and flamboyantly fashionable.

You have heard “variety’s the spice of life,” and that’s true on many levels – even on the autumn hills. When all the trees are green we tend to lump them together – just see them as trees.

Yet, when a few turn vibrant red, burnt orange or luminescent yellow, it brings a whole new dimension to the view; the hills come alive, a back road takes on magical quality.

Why do leaves change different colors, I’ve asked myself.

The secret is inside.

That color was always there, it just took the shorter days and cooler nights to bring it out.

According to, leaves are nature's food factories. Plants take water from the ground and carbon dioxide from the air along with sunlight to turn them into oxygen and glucose (plant food). This process is called photosynthesis. That means "putting together with light." A chemical called chlorophyll helps make photosynthesis happen. Chlorophyll is what gives plants their green color.

As summer ends and the days get shorter and shorter, the trees "know" to begin getting ready for winter. During winter, there is not enough light or water for photosynthesis. The trees will rest, and live off the food they stored during the summer. They begin to shut down their food-making factories. The green chlorophyll starts to break down, revealing the other chemicals inside.

What we witness in autumn is the difference in the chemical composition of each different type of tree being revealed, but what really sets the hills ablaze is a collection of different colors. Here on the East Coast we have quite the show because of the variety of hardwoods and evergreens present.

Just like a high school or family reunion, the larger the group the deeper the diversity – or more colorful, some would say. While you may not “like” everyone, the range of personality and beauty is how we see what’s inside us. Our colors are different then everyone else and true beauty is appreciating the difference – not trying to look like everyone else (like you did in high school).

It may take some time for us to figure this out, just like with the leaves, but I believe we have an opportunity (before all the glucose runs out) to own the beauty we possess inside. It will mean not looking at our reflection individually but joining the chorus of humanity around us in a way that says our differences make us more beautiful.

I know in this election year so much focus has been given to differences being irreconcilable, but don’t believe it. This country, just like everything God makes, is a reflection that beauty is a collection and that it doesn’t have to all look the same. If it did, I’m afraid the color would be brown.

Do you know the website goes on to say that the brown color of trees - like oaks - is made from wastes left in the leaves?

And it feels that way when we have waste inside of us, doesn’t it?

When I was going through a rough time after my brother died and feeling depressed, my sister gave me some good advice. She said – and I doubted her at the time – that I should smile every time I looked in the mirror. It will help chase the blues away, she said. Well, even though I didn’t feel like it, I took her advice (she is my big sister, afterall). And do you know, it really changed more than just the image that I saw, it helped my heart start to see things more positively as well.

So this is what I recommend for all of us - as we cannot avoid the next 3 weeks before the election. When you start to feel hopeless and depressed, cast your eyes up on the hills, look at the diversity, see the beauty that makes America and let’s pray that our nation can continue to reflect – in many ways – the God who has blessed us so beautifully.

And smile (it really helps!)

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