There are several ways that a nation can measure its greatness including wealth and economic opportunity, military power, equality of justice, the educational system, and freedom of speech and press. But there is also another measure that is vital. During the recent hurricanes in Houston, Texas, and in Florida, America’s volunteer spirit was on display. Legions of volunteers showed up at their own expense, some bringing boats or heavy-duty vehicles, and they worked long hours to rescue stranded people. They did not seek publicity or compensation for their service to their fellow human beings.
In Florida, a wealthy citizen who owns a very large house invited 70 children, whose foster home became uninhabitable, to take refuge in his house. The children, aged from 2 to 17, had been without laundry or bathing facilities for several days. With the help of neighbors, the children were fed, entertained, and housed until their foster home was restored to a livable condition.
The many people who raced to the aid of others did not ask: Are you liberal or conservative? What is your religion? Are you a citizen of this country? What is your sexual orientation? It was sufficient that they were human beings in need of help.
Our acquisition of power and wealth are significant accomplishments, but the voluntary devotion to the well-being of other human beings — even strangers — is an expression of humanity that deserves our greatest admiration. It was an expression of the American soul, and it was an expression of greatness.
I live in a part of Florida that was not disturbed by the recent hurricane. However, it is difficult to determine, in advance, where a hurricane will strike. In advance of the hurricane, I received messages expressing concern for my welfare from people who live on the other side of the continent, from people I haven’t seen in years and from a person I have never met.
America’s greatness can be measured by its humanity, and it is second to none.
Jack Stevenson is now retired from military service. He served two years in Vietnam as an infantry officer and worked three years as a U.S. Civil Service employee. He also worked in Egypt as an employee of the former Radio Corporation of America (RCA).
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