It didn’t take long to figure out that my thoughts were wishful thinking. The first part of the fantasy, the focus on military service, was rightfully used, though instead of having each speaker repeat the same story, I might have split McCain’s POW story into four or five parts, with each successive speaker telling a new chapter – it would have weaved a single narrative through all three nights of the convention and McCain could have ended it with himself as President of the United States. But the second part of the fantasy, “service” as community service, wasn’t even mentioned on the first night. On the second night I saw how wrong I was. Community service was not only absent from the Republican narrative, it was a punch line. Both Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin mocked Barack Obama’s years as a community organizer – to roaring applause and laughter. I sat there watching them both sneer at something that should be a virtue, and as I thought about the times that I had given of my time to help those in my community, I wondered how many who had done the same, religious or not, thought themselves the butt of the joke. I’m going to go out on the limb and say that is not the way to court religious voters.
“Service” to me has two meanings. My father served in
As a product of Jesuit education, I was taught that service was as vital a part of being a man or woman as knowing how to read or write. Two phrases, twin mottoes that adorn the walls of my memory, “For the Greater Glory of God” and “Men and Women for Others,” are so linked that I have a hard time believing the first can be achieved without the second. Community service was a part of each year’s curriculum, and we quickly learned why. Our eyes were opened to our world’s realities, not just the comforts of our friends and families. We could no longer hide behind that lie, that these impoverished “others” simply didn’t work as hard as our parents did.
I am not one of the many who have committed their lives to service. But I have, on many occasions, served food in inner city shelters, I have served the poorest of the poor in forgotten towns in Mexico, I have collected and distributed backpacks and school supplies to children, I have worked with special needs children and adults, and when the Mississippi River overflowed this year I hired a babysitter so I could go fill sandbags for my neighbors. My wife, the vice president of a company in
Now none of this necessarily qualifies me, my wife, or those who work for the betterment of their community for President of the