Nationally syndicated columnist Dennis Prager wrote recently, "in a lifetime of teaching and writing on Judaism, I have never encountered a single normative statement in 3,000 years of Jewish writing that asserted that man is basically good." Those writings of course include our Bible's Old Testament, which I love.
No statement that man is "basically good" indeed! Well obviously those Old Testament writers did not live in Southwest Nebraska and had a chance to watch the "good people" in this area donate their time, effort and treasure to my wife's Adopt-A-Chaplain project. To date Ann and her crew of volunteers have sent 85 of the large flat rate postal boxes on their way to Afghanistan and the rest will go out this week before her Friday deadline passes. Later mailings probably wouldn't arrive until after Christmas. Ninety boxes were sent for Christmas last year, this year's goal was 40 but her workers insisted that they could do 90 so only five to go.
The chaplain that Ann adopted this year is serving in Afghanistan. The others served in Iraq. His post is in the Korengal Valley near the Pakistan border. It was in this area where Army Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta performed the heroic act that earned him the Medal of Honor awarded by President Obama just last week.
This year, Ann encouraged persons to send Christmas cards with a note inside "to a soldier" to be included in the boxes. Many were unsealed and we peeked. The ones from the kids, youth groups from the church, 4th grade and Junior High classes are priceless. "Dear Soldier, ...You and your branch are very brave & have a lot of courage. Without you I would not be alive & the USA would not have freedom. I cant thank you enough. From ....(a boy)." Or a hand drawn picture of a Superman like "Hero Guy" accompanied by this note. "Dear Soldier, I wish you good luck. My country is safe, because you are out their protecting me. In my country everything is plan peaceful. It is almost Christmas, so I wish you a marry Christmas. From ... (a girl)" And so they wrote, innocent caring children with love in their hearts. Many adults tucked in missives of love too but their privacy was preserved and sent as received. Now tell me again that people aren't good!
Money. From dollar bills to a check that would pay postage on 40 boxes the money rolled in. Persons in communities from McCook, Culbertson and on west to Stratton contributed for the postage and to purchase other needed items. Now our family has learned that if you ever ask Grannie if she needs money the answer is always "YES, I always take money!" People were more than generous and all her needs were met. Rest assured that any extra funds received will be spent on her continuing Adopt-A-Chaplain ministry as she sends at least one box each week throughout the year.
A seventh grade teacher appeared with a three-pack of chewing gum contributed by one of her 12-year-old students, "Please give this to the soldiers." Good teachers know all and for this student from a family of severely limited means it was a significant gift, all he could give.
Items to pack and send were donated by church youth groups from grade school to junior and senior high. A fourth grade class made cards and wrote messages, 6-7-8th grade students wrote cards and sent enough "stuff" that it filled the trunk and back seat of her car. A local dentist donated tooth paste. The McCook Airport Air Ambulance LifeTeam gathered items to send as did the Sr. High Student Council. A supplier donated a near bushel of jerky the favorite of G.I.'s in the field. Many more individuals and local businesses dropped by with items to be sent. Other businesses gave whopping discounts. Ziplok packets of candy were used to fill the crannies and stuff each box to the max. This community, and that includes Kansas people, have opened their hearts and wallets for this worthy cause. You make us proud!
I am also aware that other individuals and organizations in this community make similar efforts to send packages to our troops. Especially to those who "due to the exigencies of the service" will be away from home for Christmas. The holidays can be a lonely time to be away from family as this old veteran is well aware having "been there and done that." A gift box and a card from family is precious but receiving such from total strangers also sends a message that the G.I. is appreciated and far from forgotten. Yes I am convinced that our people are basically good!
That is how I saw it.