By Stphen C. Schultz
As I watch the news and listen to discussions on the daily topics of interest, I find myself disheartened by the selfish, shallow and selective reasoning that seems to be so pervasive throughout our great country. Selfishness creates an attitude of self-pity, which over rides any attempt at empathy for others, compassion or thoughts of service. Chronic self-concern means that the emotional "No Vacancy" sign will always be sputtering. I find myself asking; what ever happened to civility brought about by kindness, tact and tolerance? Where is the courage to be caring, honest, faithful and friendly with one another? If we as a people hope for unity, we must embrace patience, peacefulness, respect, idealism, courtesy and honor.
My next thought was that these principles seem to be foreign to whole generations. Many seem to be caught up in a “scarcity” mentality where there are only winners and losers with no opportunity for a “win-win” situation to be achieved. There is a general feeling of unrest and very little sense of well being; physical as well as emotional. How do these virtues get taught to the next generation? I don’t know. I wish I had the answer.
I recently spent some time at my parents home, in Eugene Oregon, over the 4th of July Holiday. I was able to spend time with my brother and my Father in the back field cutting down fallen trees and mowing the pasture. This may not seem like fun, but I mentioned to my brother there was no place I would rather be.
As my brother Jared and I followed our Dad through the trees, I was amazed how I had this feeling of being a kid again. Even though my brother and I are middle aged with families of our own, there was this feeling of comfort and security simply being with Dad! Working together in the “back forty” again was an experience I will not soon forget.
As I watched my father on the tractor, pushing fallen limbs around, he was at peace with his surroundings and place in life. There was a confidence in his attitude and competence in his actions. I wondered if I would ever get to that state of mind. I thought about the example my father had set throughout my life and considered the life experiences that had contributed to his personal sense of fulfillment.
Ten years ago, my parents took an early retirement. Their life long dream of spending time together at the cabin in Florence and traveling the Oregon Coast took a detour. They answered a different calling. They accepted a call to serve the people in West Africa doing missionary work with those less fortunate than us. They taught others about healthy family and community relationships through Christian principles and personal example. They helped civil war victims obtain prosthetics and wheel chairs. My parents instructed young children to love one another and to sing together as opposed to warring with one another in the jungles of Nigeria. They oversaw the building of wells and irrigation systems for crops and fresh water.
My mother, who is a nurse by training, helped in local hospitals to train the staff in neo-natal medicine. Medical technology and procedures that are routine here, are literally miracles in Africa. She dispersed clothing, schoolbooks and hygiene kits to villages and schools throughout the continent. And they taught parents and communities in Togo the skills necessary to be resilient and self-reliant. They did all of this with their own funds, using monetary resources they had reserved for retirement.
They recently shared an experience with me where buses and vans of wartime victims pulled up to the curb of a wheel chair distribution site. Picture if you will, crowds of parents patiently holding limbless young children, and young adults holding disabled parents. All were hopeful to receive a wheel chair. My parents assisted in this process and were able to distribute over 500 wheel chairs. They shared the story of children, once they were situated in their new chairs, wheeling around the premises. These small kids were joyfully out of control, exploring their new found mobility and freedom. For many of the young ones, it had been years or even a lifetime with no mobility.
Happiness is not acquired. Joyfulness is not obtained. As I look at my father and mother, their sense of fulfillment is a byproduct of how they chose to live their lives in the service of others. Never once did they ask themselves what they could do to be “happier” or increase their "self esteem". Simply stated, in the process of “giving”, they actually “received”.