A Gift for America

Alone, after a lifetime with her mate, Mrs. M shared a small apartment with her beloved cat. At 94 her stooped body belied a much stronger spirit. She’d cultivated strong opinions from years of experience.  If anyone cared to listen, she’d wave a bony finger and innumerate America’s woes.

Shuffling to a comfy chair, she sat down after offering tea and a plate of Oreos. Her graciousness spoke of gentler times. I expected an afternoon of complaints—life as it used to be and how America was “going to hell in a handbasket.”

But today her finger pointed at herself and what she could have done when she’d had more energy. She lamented not volunteering at the school where she could have helped little kids learn to read—or offering her time at the library when they needed help teaching immigrants English. She’d made excuses back then. Now she counted how many lives she didn’t help, rather than those she did.

She shook her head sadly of all the Sunday sermons she heard and then lived her selfish Monday life the rest of the week. If America was worse off today, she’d contributed to it—not by what she’d done, but by all the things she didn’t do. “You know my biggest mistake? Thinking that the little things I could do wouldn’t matter. They would have.”

I noticed her looking at the wedding picture sitting on a nearby table—a much younger woman than the one slowly rocking in her chair. Her voice softened, “I may not have much time left, but you do.”

As I drove off that afternoon, her words resonated. America’s problems are not all from what we’ve done, but also from what we’re not doing. This isn’t about political activism; it’s about volunteering, helping out in our schools, helping the poor, and giving time where time is needed.

It’s been said that the trouble is not in the White House; it’s in God’s house—the church. If we want to make a difference, we must get out of the pew, serving where we live—all over America.

And as our nation celebrates its independence, giving the gift of our time would be the best birthday present we could offer our nation.

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