As Americas read, watch, and listen to the news, whether in print, televised, on radio or internet, it is easy to be discouraged by the behavior of those in the public eye in our society. We have become cynical and distrusting of the motivations of our leaders and national celebrities. We seem to become numb and inured to the violence in our society and across the globe.
We also appear to accept injustice and violations of the human rights that are espoused in our founding documents of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. The divisiveness we see in our government is disturbingly evident in our local communities. Is it possible that the forces that seek to rend us apart are stronger than those forces that draw and bind us together?
These are the thoughts I have pondered for the week of Thanksgiving 2017.
Fortunately for me, October and November were busy months of travel and engagement with varied groups across our U.S. society. Whether in the great Midwest in Illinois or Ohio, the Northeast in Boston, in Northern Virginia (NOVA) or here in Carlisle, I have encountered people who have dedicated themselves to service.
Among them are citizen-soldiers, educators and school administrators, civic and social entrepreneurs, scholars and practitioners of leader development, political scientists and sociologists as well as members of non-profit service and faith-based organizations. In each case, these people have humbled me with their personal commitment to be part of making life better for others.
The organizations include:
Illinois Army National Guard
University of Illinois at Urban—Champaign Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) Executive Development Roundtable at Boston University National Alliance on Mental Illness—Cumberland and Perry Counties, PA Education Policy Fellowship Programs of the Institute for Educational Leadership Beta Omicron Sigma Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma, Inc. in Columbus Ohio Inter-University Seminar of Armed Forces and Society.
Rotary Club of Carlisle—Sunrise
Project Share Food Bank
I will refrain from providing details for each of these organizations, but I find affirmation in the goals, objectives, and programs that they pursue. Locally, I am a member of the Sunrise Rotary Club and on the Board of Directors of Project Share. Over the past two months, I have witnessed organizational members and supporting volunteers work diligently to address challenges of our community members.
While it would be natural and easy to judge those in need, members of these Carlisle organizations have chosen instead to serve.
While national trends exhibit self-interest and growing pessimism of our citizens, I have witnessed generosity and hope. When these two words came to mind, I found the following definitions useful:
Generosity: “Showing a readiness to give more of something, as money or time, that is strictly necessary or expected: showing kindness toward others.”
Hope: “A feeling of expectation or desire for a certain thing to happen; grounds for believing that something good may happen.”
As we enter the holiday season, let us be generous in our spirit and actions, and create hope for others and ourselves for the coming New Year.
Charles D. Allen, Colonel, U.S. Army Retired, is a Professor, Leadership and Cultural Studies U.S. Army War College.