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I had an unusual experience today. It's been a terrible week. Our beloved dog, Daisy, passed away on my birthday. Sheila and I have been grieving pretty hard over it for more than a week now. Our beloved son, Matthew, received terrible news about his situation a few days later. We are both of us emotionally exhausted.
So, today, we had to take Sheila to see the doctor in Tacoma. We were sitting in the pharmacy afterwards and a lovely older woman came up and started a conversation with us. The lady, it turned out, was a grant-writer and nonprofit veteran like me. She and I got to exchanging war stories about life in the nonprofit sector and our struggles to do a little good in the world. Apparently she'd gone up against the bureaucrat machine like I had and we evidently shared much the same history being forced to fight for the folks we served.
A short while later an elderly black man who had apparently been listening to us talk came up to me. He held out his hand and thanked me for what I'd done. I shook his hand, kind of puzzled and thanked him for his kindness. He said not many "people" would do what I had done. I think he meant not many white Anglo-Saxon Protestant Men. I'm not sure. He seemed shocked to find somebody "like me" who actually cared about seniors, people with disabilities, abused kids and low income families enough to give 40 years of his life to trying to help.
I didn't have the heart to tell him or the lady we were talking to that I was a conservative. As with most of the motley collection of assorted liberals I've had the privilege of working with over the years, the idea that I'm a conservative never quite seems to sink in with these guys. It's just too far outside their paradigm to register.
I did tell him I was a Christian. I told the gentleman that when you give your heart to God and promise Him that you will go where He leads you, there's not much else you can do other than go where He sends you. It doesn't make us better people because we sacrifice a little effort to do what's right and needful. We're better people; just people who have been made better. It comes from hanging out with Jesus all this time. He rubs off on you. You can't really help following his example. And Sheila, my sweet wife, has been with me every step of the way. She's never let me down in all the long years we've been together and she leaves behind her a lifetime's work of her own, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and lifting up the down-trodden and weary. I am blessed that she is my partner in life.
People who try to make a difference don't hear a lot of thank-you's from the folk they work for and with. You'd think they'd be showered with accolades, but beyond a few quick thank you's on the way out the door the accolades generally go to the people that donate hard cash to the cause. Two things nonprofits and hard-working volunteers don't get a lot of is (a) profits and (b) thank-you's. Fortunately, people like me and Larry, my grateful black friend, Sheila and the grant-writing lady we met at the pharmacy don't do what we do for recognition or for profit.
It was nice to hear a spontaneous "Thanks," though. There are a lot of people out there working quietly and tirelessly to help solve problems in their communities. It's tough work, but as somebody once said, "Somebody's gotta do it." I became a conservative because in my experience working with the system, I found that big bureaucracies that run the system can be cold, cruel and self-centered. I saw very quickly that church-based ministries and community-based nonprofits are far more efficient at solvingproblems where you live instead of depending on people thousands of miles away in Washington to somehow guess how to fix your problems for you.
It never works out well that way.
It was nice to hear a little thanks though. The Apostle Paul once said, "All things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to his purpose." He was also beheaded by the emperor of Rome. Like Paul, you may be trying to do the right thing by your friends, your family and your community, but most times it feels like you're not doing any good or getting anywhere even if you are trying to do the right thing. The good old boy networks are entrenched. The politicians are too powerful. The system is resistant to change. And most of the time it seems like the bad guys win.
That's the sinful world we live in. All that's decent seems to be opposed by greed, corruption and lust for power. Because of Christ's influence on us all, however, the world is also filled with lots and lots of people working as hard as they can to make the world a better place. You may not see them very often, but they're there working along quietly unnoticed for the most part. The Scribes and the Pharisees, the criminals, the crooked politicians, and the crony capitalists hate people like that. Jesus said they would and He was right.
Do me a favor though. Even though every where you turn there are rotters, cads, bounders and more than a few monsters, once in a while, if you catch someone doing something good, stop and say thank-you. Those who resist the dark side and who toil away valiantly, mostly out of sight, trying to make things a little better in their towns, communities and neighborhoods probably feel a little alone. It would be nice if you would take the time to stop and say, "Thanks." I can tell you from personal experience, that it makes you feel like you're actually doing some good out there.
It's particularly nice to hear, once in a while, that someone notices and appreciates the effort.
That awful power, the public opinion of a nation, is created in America by a horde of ignorant, self-complacent simpletons who failed at ditching and shoe-making and fetched up in journalism on their way to the poorhouse. -Mark Twain