On one of the 13 days of the Cuban Missile Crisis — that would be from Oct. 16 to Oct. 28, 1962 — 7-year-old me entered our house on South Taylor, having just walked the mile from Ascension School. Something powerful was percolating inside and I blurted out to my mom and my grandmother and my siblings all assembled in the living room watching news on TV, “I hate Nikita Khrushchev.”

My mom, Mary, was many ways wonderful. Most all of the good things I figured out about living a purposeful and giving life I learned by watching my mom and my dad. Day after day, the way they lived, the way they treated their kids and everyone else.

 I don’t remember many sit-down moments where wisdom was imparted. But on that day, when clearly I thought our world might likely end, my mom sat down next to me on the couch. And she said, “We don’t hate anybody. We can really disagree with the things they do. But we don’t hate them.”

I thought of that moment for the first time in decades last week when Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the house, made plain that she does not hate Donald Trump. No, she said, she prays for this evil idiot (my characterization, not hers).

Which brings me to praying for presidents.

At some point early in the presidency of Barack Obama — and that would be around the 30-year marker in my marriage to Mary Colleen — we unexpectedly fell into the habit of saying a prayer as we lay in bed on Sunday nights. I’m not a pray-er. Never have been. Mary has the abiding and growing spirituality in this partnership. But I’m the one who initiated Sunday night prayers. Maybe it was some kind of centering mechanism as another week came rushing up. But we’d pray for our kids in their challenges, we’d pray for family, for friends by name, we’d pray “for our small company and the neighborhoods we cover,” we’d pray for help on matters close to us and matters a world away. And every Sunday we prayed for President Obama and his family. 

Then Donald Trump became president and I had a crisis of conscience when it came to including this morally failed person in our prayer. How could I pray for someone so heinous, so reckless, so, to me, beyond the reach of prayer? The right answer was who needs prayer more than Donald Trump? The right answer was that if you believe at all in the power of prayer, then pray like hell for Trump. But I couldn’t cough up the words.

And over time, our simple, centering Sunday night prayer fell by the wayside. 

So along with our democracy and the world order, Trump has taken a deep chunk out of my limited spiritual tool kit. 

OK, so Nancy Pelosi is a better person than I am. I know, not a surprise. We agree about not hating individuals. But she’s got me beat on the power of prayer. She did say that she prayed that Donald Trump’s eyes would be opened. Sort of a back-handed prayer. But much kinder than my fervent wish, not a prayer mind you, that he’ll just keel over. 

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Dan Haley

Dan was one of the three founders of Wednesday Journal in 1980. He’s still here as its four flags – Wednesday Journal, Austin Weekly News, Forest Park Review and Riverside-Brookfield Landmark – make...