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Daily News and Prayer is inspired by The Christian Science Monitor, one of the most important (and most underappreciated) newspapers in the world. Posts are usually (but not always) responses to articles in the Monitor about events and trends that call for prayer.

The blog's aim is to help strengthen humanity's collective confidence that we can triumph over even the most deeply entrenched evils, in ourselves and in the world.

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Friday
Aug282015

Unselfed America

Is America in decline? There are lots of reasons to think so. But we may be looking at the wrong things. The state of government and the economy, or statistics of wealth and health, don’t give the whole story. There’s also the spirit of the people. There’s an underlying strength in America that won’t easily be dislodged.

America exists to model freedom. Not just the freedom to do whatever we want, which has led to a kind of brutal life in parts of America, where the rich get richer, everyone else feels vulnerable, and government looks the other way. The freedom that really defines America is the freedom to do good no matter the consequences. If the government isn’t permitted to exercise that freedom very often, at least domestically, individuals can, and society supports the idea. In 2014 charitable giving  by Americans hit an all-time high. The country is the only one ranked in the top ten in the world in three key areas of giving: the percentage of people who donate in a typical month to charity, who volunteer time and who help a stranger.

That last area is telling: Americans are the clear leader in helping strangers. Look at the three Americans who hog-tied a terrorist on a French train, with the help of a Brit and two Frenchmen. It’s an understatement to say they made many people’s lives better.

You don’t have to be American, of course, to do good. Myanmar tied with the U.S. in overall giving and was the leader in giving to charity. But for Americans, doing good is almost a religion. When someone is in trouble, Americans tend to want to jump in. Last year I was at a grocery store in France, and a little lady was trying to reach the top shelf to pull down a bottle of shampoo. People were walking by and ignoring her. She was starting to step on the bottom shelf to climb up, which didn’t look very safe, and a man near her was watching her, mouthing words to himself, apparently practicing what to say. As she stepped on the shelf he went up to her and said, in French, “Can I help you get that?” He had a strong American accent, and the words weren’t in the right order, but he managed to get himself understood. He pulled the bottle down for her, and she couldn’t stop thanking him.

I’ve met many kind and generous people of different nationalities during my six-plus years in Europe. But very few of them would say their purpose in life is to do good. That sounds naïve to a lot of people, making selflessness a life purpose. Americans, on the other hand – not all, but many – will say without embarrassment that their purpose in life is to do good. Lincoln’s words, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right . . .” sum up well the attitude of many Americans toward the world and its problems.

Maybe that’s one reason I really respect The Christian Science Monitor, with its purpose “to bless all mankind.” It’s published by a church, but it’s also firmly rooted in America (Boston) and American attitudes of good will.

America will do fine, as long as we don’t forget who we are. Government of the people, by the people and for the people cannot perish from the earth as long as a nation that values unselfed love exists.

 

Reader Comments (2)

Well said and supported, Keith.
When I fell over the handlebars of my bike in Manhattan once, I hadn't stopped rolling when a lady had my wrist: "I'm a nurse, I'm taking your pulse..."

When I crumpled to the crooked cobblestones with a sprained ankle on Montmartre in Paris, surrounded by Europeans and Parisians ... not a finger lifted. Anecdotage, I know, but what a sorry surprise.

August 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGordon Imrie

Wonderful Keith.
Had a sudden surge of joy in contemplating the many, many! Americans whose main hope and purpose is to be of aid to America and to the world.
What a thoughtful piece. I feel sure it’s a force for good, - and impetus to do even better.
I hope this will get out to great numbers.
I shall be forwarding it!
Merci encore,
Susan

August 30, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Collins

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