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What color do you think of when you think of Ireland? Green, right? Leprechauns, four leaf clovers, and the Emerald Isle, right? I was curious as to how Ireland became known as the Emerald Isle beyond the obvious, the emerald green landscape.

The first time the words ever appeared in print in reference to Ireland was in a poem by Belfast-born Dr. William Drennan, titled “When Erin First Rose.” Drennan, a poet, a physician and a political activist who helped found the Society of United Irishmen, was born in Belfast in 1754. His father was the Reverend Thomas Drennan, who served as minister of Belfast’s First Presbyterian Church. He was an advocate for independence.

As the society grew, Drennan became its leading force in Dublin and stood trial for libel in 1794. But by 1798, the year of the rebellion, he had parted ways with the society as its emphasis shifted to rebellion and violent uprising.

It was in 1795, however, that Drennan penned the poem “When Erin First Rose.” The stanza where the words "the Emerald Isle" first appeared reads:

Alas! for poor Erin that some are still seen,

Who would dye the grass red from their hatred to green;

Yet, oh! when you're up, and they're down, let them live,

Then yield them that mercy which they would not give.

Arm of Erin, be strong! but be gentle as brave;

And uplifted to strike, be still ready to save;

Let no feeling of vengeance presume to defile

The cause of, or men of, the Emerald Isle.

When Drennan died in 1820, in a final symbolic gesture he had insisted that his coffin be carried by three Protestants and three Catholics. It seems Drennan was an activist towards bettering his homeland.

Back to our title; “The Grass Is Always Greener.” How many of you in your mind filled that in with the classic cliché “on the other side of the fence?

I sit on a committee that interviews candidates for office and recommends endorsements to our Chamber of Commerce Board and members. I can’t believe I waited 56 years to hear it, but I loved what one candidate said, “The grass is always greener where you water it.” In other words, if you want to better your church, your school, your charity, your community, your state, your country, get involved, be active, do something, make a difference.

As a community activist myself, I really believe those words. While serving, I learned about POETS; “People Opposed to virtually EveryThing” and people who believed in NIMBY; “Not In My Back Yard” and the tremendous majority who don’t stay informed, don’t vote, and seem to hibernate until the construction cones showed up in their neighborhood. Being involved is not always easy, but someone smarter than me (might have been my dad) used to say, “if you don’t want to be criticized, don’t do anything, don’t say anything, don’t make a difference.”

I believe Christians are called to be active.

Jeremiah 29:7

Pray for peace in Babylonia and work hard to make it prosperous. The more successful that nation is, the better off you will be.

The Jews were in exile in Babylon. If anyone had a justification to be complacent, it was them. Clearly God told them not to ignore society, but to seek peace and prosperity, even pray for it. What does this say about us, and how important it is to be civic minded?

The next time you see green, think of the Irish and the Emerald isle. It seems the person who coined that name was very civically inclined. It seems to me, green would be a good reminder to you that God gives us the green light to get involved where we’re at too.

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