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Serve Where It Counts Most

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

In America today, people may differ in how they define what it is to care. Some are more focused on nurturing and giving, caring enough to provide a welcoming sense of security in the tough times. Others are more comfortable showing tough love—caring enough to hold one accountable and let them gain confidence by earning their own way out of a problem.

In families, one parent is often ready to give a hug, enough money to get by, and even a few months back home. The other can be heard saying, “Don’t baby the child! It’s time to let them stand on their own. That’s the way you learn!” Do both care? Of course. Are both needed at times in our lives? Thanks mom. Thanks dad.

Before falling into gender stereotypes, it was my mom who was a bit tougher. Dad loved to laugh and love. He could be pushed to the point of discipline, but it was mom’s steady hand that kept us accountable and on the straight and narrow. It does not change the fact that both are needed—support and discipline, freedom and limits, hugs and a few challenges we face on our own.

Families often work best with parents who help balance both caring roles. In the political realm, both liberal and conservative voices play a critical role in sustaining the American Dream. The tension serves. If government support becomes more of a comfortable hammock than a temporary assist, the voting taxpayers begin to say, “Enough! We need someone to stop fostering dependence with people who could be working!” When there’s no temporary support for those facing situational poverty—trends that translate into lost jobs for industries in decline, disasters that destroy cities and local economies, and economic malaise that hits whole regions—voters want politicians and charities to provide a helping hand.

Thankfully, the non-ideological middle tends to flow with the needs of the time. Conservatives and liberals might best understand that their version of caring, when taken to extremes, is their ticket out of power. 

Certainly, finding that sweet spot of balancing government support with personal accountability and self-reliance is important. But when thinking about what makes America work, it’s too easy to keep the lens focused on what happens in Washington. Government solutions are often too distant and impersonal to supply the support needed.

It’s in the local communities that caring gets up close and personal. Local charities, faith communities, and civic groups seldom get the national headlines or become the focus of talk radio. But what makes America truly great is when we the people come together locally to care and to serve. We may be divided politically, but when we are serving together where we live, politics takes a back seat. In short, it’s community service over party affiliation. 

Speaking recently at the Thousand Oaks Kiwanis, I was impressed hearing members talk about and volunteer to help one community service project after another. You can pick the local groups that make a difference in your world—Kiwanis, Rotary, the Chamber, churches, Senior Concerns, Action, Lutheran Social Services, Meals on Wheels, Food Bank, and the list goes on. Americans serve and are blessed for having served.

With so many Americans taking time to worship last week, may we remember that our God calls us to get beyond worship to serve where we are with what we have. Whether you were remembering the Passover and the humble, servant heart of Moses leading the people of God out of Egypt or celebrating a loving savior Jesus willing to die that others might have eternal life and serve in His name, we are blessed to have a country that ensures religious freedom. But faith leads to a calling to serve.

Whether secular or religious, whether you voted for Trump or not, Trump is in the White House. Let’s not get locked into focusing on the ever-upsetting Washington soap opera. Nothing brings a country together better than getting involved in a common cause that makes a difference. So start investing more of your aggravation time serving locally. The byproduct is satisfying—a better community to live in and a lot more personal joy and satisfaction. 

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