A friend recently told me about a sign he saw hanging behind the cash register of a country store that said "In God we trust. All others pay cash."
I hope most Americans still trust in God, but I am concerned that many of us are losing faith in one another and in the institutions that have long provided the underpinnings of our society.
According to a piece posted on NationalJournal.com:
- 7 in 10 Americans believe the country is on the wrong track;
- 8 in 10 are dissatisfied with the way the nation is being governed;
- only 23 percent have confidence in banks, and just 19 percent have confidence in big business;
- less than half the population expresses "a great deal" of confidence in the public school system or organized religion
Have we really gotten to the place where we want to throw up our hands over just about everything? I hope not. I hope that our dissatisfaction with dysfunction will not result in our withdrawal from the fray but will inspire us to get in there and fix things.
No, we cannot make this world or our society a perfect place, but we can and should make it a better place! Nothing could be more counterproductive to the future than our lack of participation in our communities and our giving up on the basic American principle that we can be and ought to be responsible for the common good.
If it's broken, let's fix it. If it's unethical, let's not tolerate it. If it works against human dignity and flourishing, let's get agitated and activate against it.
If you are on the verge of confidence loss, let me draw your attention to the DeKalb County elementary school where earlier this week a mentally ill young man managed to get a semi-automatic rifle and 498 rounds of ammunition past security. The principal was prepared. The teachers were prepared. Most of all, a great lady, a bookkeeper in the front office, was prepared to give her life for the sake of the 870 children, their ages ranging from 4 to 10, who were in their classrooms, learning to count and read and share with one another.
How did she talk the potential shooter down? By kindness. She told him she understood that life had been tough for him. She kept him calm as she communicated with law enforcement officers on his behalf.
After he relinquished his weapon, she said to him, "We are not going to hate you, baby."
Later, the police chief made it clear that it was Antoinette Tuff alone who convinced Michael Hill to surrender. One good person and several well-functioning public institutions saved the day.
In this lies our hope.