The spirit of Amer­ica

Al­le­vi­at­ing the af­flic­tions of oth­ers is a na­tional call­ing

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion - By Ed Feul­ner

With the an­nual me­dia cov­er­age of “Black Fri­day,” it’s easy to over­look an im­por­tant fact: There’s a lot of giv­ing go­ing on year-round that isn’t gift-wrapped — giv­ing that makes a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in the lives of mil­lions.

Take the aptly named Spirit of Amer­ica (SOA), a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that works with U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel to pro­vide hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance world­wide. It’s funded en­tirely by pri­vate con­tri­bu­tions. SOA goes to war-torn places from Afghanistan to Guyana, bring­ing ev­ery­thing from metal de­tec­tors, tools and tourni­quets, to blan­kets, soc­cer balls and ra­dios. It fixes wells and do­nates com­put­ers to help lo­cal schools.

When the U.S. Army in Mau­ri­ta­nia needed to make ar­eas scarred by al Qaeda-in­flicted vi­o­lence more se­cure, it turned to Spirit of Amer­ica. Live­stock health, the Army de­ter­mined, was the pri­mary lo­cal need, so SOA went to work pro­vid­ing the train­ing and equip­ment needed to im­prove the health of cat­tle and goats in the re­gion.

It isn’t just groups such as SOA ex­hibit­ing this kind of self­less­ness, though. In­di­vid­ual Amer­i­cans con­trib­ute mil­lions of hours of their time each year to help and sup­port peo­ple and causes, work­ing out to an av­er­age of three hours per week per per­son. Amer­i­cans give more of them­selves and their per­sonal in­come to as­sist the less for­tu­nate than all other na­tions on a per-per­son ba­sis.

Truly, we heed Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton’s call: “Let your heart feel for the af­flic­tions and distresses of ev­ery­one, and let your hand give in pro­por­tion to your purse, re­mem­ber­ing ... that it is not ev­ery­one who as­keth that de­serveth char­ity.”

When nat­u­ral dis­as­ters strike, Amer­i­cans rally around the flag like no other peo­ple on earth. Af­ter the dev­as­ta­tion caused by Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina along the coast of the Gulf of Mex­ico, Amer­i­cans do­nated more than $3 bil­lion to re­build and to aid those who lost ev­ery­thing in the storm. Th­ese do­na­tions were made even though peo­ple un­der­stood that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment would al­lo­cate tens of bil­lions to the ef­fort.

Amer­i­cans’ gen­eros­ity doesn’t stop at our na­tion’s bor­ders. When­ever and wher­ever dis­as­ter strikes, Amer­i­cans are there to help with­out ques­tion. In ad­di­tion to the mil­i­tary and fi­nan­cial do­na­tions our gov­ern­ment makes, Amer­i­cans reach deep into their own pock­ets when their fel­low hu­man be­ings are in need.

Af­ter a hor­rific tsunami hit the In­dian Ocean re­gion in 2004, killing more than 230,000 and ren­der­ing mil­lions home­less, Amer­i­cans do­nated more than $3.16 bil­lion to help re­build. In the days af­ter the dis­as­ter, it was the U.S. Navy (with help from our Aus­tralian and Bri­tish al­lies) that got wa­ter-treat­ment plants run­ning and de­liv­ered emer­gency aid.

In 2010, af­ter an earth­quake dev­as­tated the Haitian cap­i­tal of Port-au-Prince, killing more than 200,000 and leav­ing more than 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple home­less, Amer­i­cans do­nated $1.3 bil­lion to help re­build the dev­as­tated is­land na­tion. The largest per­cent­age of donors (37 per­cent) re­ported mak­ing do­na­tions through their places of wor­ship.

The gen­eros­ity of the Amer­i­can peo­ple doesn’t de­crease be­cause of poor eco­nomic cir­cum­stances at home. For ex­am­ple, the do­na­tions to the Haitian relief ef­forts were made at the height of a ma­jor re­ces­sion in the United States.

Amer­i­cans have do­nated bil­lions of dol­lars in relief funds to aid ev­ery nat­u­rald­is­as­ter relief ef­fort around the globe, even when that na­tion’s gov­ern­ment is our ad­ver­sary. The Amer­i­can peo­ple pro­vided $74 mil­lion in the first year af­ter Cy­clone Nar­gis to Myan­mar, where the gov­ern­ment was hos­tile to Amer­ica.

“Pri­vate char­i­ties, as well as con­tri­bu­tions to pub­lic pur­poses in pro­por­tion to ev­ery­one’s cir­cum­stances, are cer­tainly among the du­ties we owe to so­ci­ety,” Thomas Jef­fer­son once said — and Amer­i­cans have been liv­ing up to that creed ever since. That’s some­thing we can cer­tainly be grate­ful for this hol­i­day sea­son.

ILLUSTRATION BY DONNA GRETHEN

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