The Great Goodness of America

My parents were married for almost 65 years.  For at least the last ten years, my father was the sole caretaker for my mother, whose slide into dementia has been pronounced and heartbreaking.  Even though he had his own health issues, he insisted on taking care of her himself.  I live over two hundred miles away, and though I tried to convince my father to move closer to me, he always came up with an excuse to stay.

The worst nightmare I could imagine was that he would someday collapse, and my mother would be unable to understand what to do.  On December 5, that is exactly what happened. 

I made my regular call to check on them, and my mother answered the phone.  This worried me -- due to her confusion and her inability to speak coherently, my father would always answer.  She said he was sleeping and didn't want to wake up.  I panicked, as I sensed that something terrible had happened.

Because I live almost four hours away, I called the only person I knew who could help: my parents' 92-year-old friend.  She assured me that she would go right over.  Four hours later, I arrived at the house.  Marcella, the faithful friend, was with my mother, and even though it was late, she told me to go on to the hospital.  She had called the pastor of my parents' church; he was waiting for me at the critical care unit.

Two days later, Dad died.  To say that I was devastated does not properly convey the sense of desolation I felt.  However, during this ordeal, I was never completely alone.  Marcella's call to the pastor triggered an avalanche of compassion.  Reverend Charlie was there when I arrived at the hospital that first awful night, and throughout the week, he kept popping up whenever I seemed to need help.  As I was collapsing emotionally, he calmly held me up.

Both before and after Dad died, good Samaritans came out of nowhere to offer aid and comfort.  I discovered that my parents were surrounded by neighbors who had known them and cared about them for many years.  The man across the street said that Dad was like a father to him, and he and others offered to watch the house, loan me vehicles, or help clean the yard.  The young couple next door offered sincere condolences and spoke of how much my father meant to them.

The doctors and the nurses in the critical care unit were exceptionally kind and helpful.  The nurses not only attended to Dad with efficiency and gentleness, but also frequently checked on me during that lonely vigil.  They had plenty of other patients who were as bad off as my father, but they made special efforts both to care for him and to make sure I was comfortable.

After it was all over, I was struck by the unbelievable kindness of everyone who helped.  I was also overwhelmed as I began reminiscing about the goodness my father possessed.  People all over the country were shocked and saddened by his death, because he stayed in touch with so many and always was cheerful and full of vitality.  This man who grew up during the Great Depression was frugal in his personal habits but immensely generous to others.  He visited and wrote to old co-workers who were disabled.  He volunteered at the local library and community college, repairing videotapes and tutoring people in English.  He cared for an elderly former landlady who had no one else, and he acted as her executor when she died.  He picked oranges, persimmons, and figs from his trees and joyfully distributed them to his neighbors.  Most of all, he lovingly and gently watched over my mother as Alzheimer's disease gradually rendered her helpless.

At the end of the day, this tragedy reopened my eyes to the deep-running goodness of Americans.  So many people in this country are decent and good simply because they have they have grown up in the United States of America, a society that encourages charity and neighborliness.  Decency is not an accident; in countries such as the old Soviet Union, indifference was rampant and kindness rare because virtue was crushed at every turn.  America, on the other hand, has cultivated freedom and virtuous behavior, which allows goodness to flourish.  Even in Los Angeles -- that city of fallen angels, the last place on earth where I would have expected it -- I experienced compassionate goodness firsthand.

The greatness of America is not in question. The real question is, with leftist ideology steadily gaining a foothold, can that decency continue to flourish? 

When virtue is defined as that which the government deems acceptable, and when that same government aggressively assumes the role of caring for those in need, can the goodness survive?  Goodness is not something that a beneficent government can bestow; it flows from the hearts of free citizens reared in a tradition of morality, independence, and resourcefulness.  When the left denigrates that tradition and seeks to replace it with a materialist, deterministic ideology that empowers an ever-expanding government, American goodness -- and hence American greatness -- is gravely imperiled.