I was asked to speak about Plank Road Summer at a couple adult and youth Sunday school classes. Since an author never turns down an invitation to talk about her book, and the church was close to my heart, I agreed. Though we didn’t write our book as a moral tale, we don’t need to search very hard to see faith issues at work.
The 1850s Wisconsin community was facing a moral dilemma–what side would they take on the slavery issue? When Hilda and I started writing our book, every character in the neighborhood was against slavery. How could anyone have an opinion other than that? But as we dug deeper into the issues and laws of the time, we realized that some people in that community would have believed that following the law of the land was the right thing to do. The law stated that slaves were to be returned their masters in the South.
This became a starting point for my Sunday morning conversations–what would you have done? Would you have helped the slaves? Would you follow the law? Would you risk a $1000 fine? We came to understand that the people of the time would have faced an moral dilemma–when the right choice may not have seemed as obvious as it does to us today, 150 years later.
What issues do we have today that are dividing our communities? Health care, illegal immigration, human rights, political divisions. We face moral and ethical dilemmas every day, some close to home, and some at a national or international level.
My hope is that as we face the issues that divide us, we can remember one lesson from Plank Road Summer: In the end, everybody joined the dance. It didn’t matter who won the horse race or who was an abolitionist or who was part of the posse–everybody joined the dance. As a country and as local communities, we need to take time to celebrate the unity we share, despite our differing opinions. How would our world be better if we listened more, accused less, worked together, and invited everybody to the dance?