Recently, my Aunt Chloe passed.  She was 94 years old and through the course of her life---its ups and downs—she gained wisdom surpassing her naturally astute intelligence. I have been thinking lately of how she influenced me. She was strong and capable because she had to be especially as a Navy Wife.  She kept the family and her medical practice going when her husband saw extended oversea service during WW 2 and the Korean War.  With her wise eyes and lifetime of experiences, even until the end, she could diagnose a situation.

A few years ago she called me to chat. I remember that she was stirred up by the direction she felt this country was going and wanted to know what I was going to do about it. I was caught a bit off guard. There was no beating around the bush and as much as I wanted to excuse myself from that topic, she persisted.  I tried to explain that I was a busy mom who was running in all directions but my attempt to be excused was rebuffed.

She expected that as a parent I should be vocal about the decline in standards and concerned that certain politicians were not doing their jobs—if not for my sake then for the sake of my children. She persisted until I agreed that yes, I should work on issues that were not limited to my ten mile square radius of kid’s schools, sports, and activities.

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I’ve been thinking.  I am one person. One voice.  But I can hopefully be inspired by others and with God’s grace, possibly be that inspiration for someone else.  And I can chose to align myself with people who want the best for the future of this country and are willing to make the effort. It doesn’t have to be complicated. We can make a difference in our own way and with our own talents.

Enlightening statistics from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report just revealed that I am living, in my bucolic town, 40 miles from a city with the third worst murder rate in the country! This is shocking but combined with the fact that this same city, Newark, NJ has a 43.5 percent rate of children living in poverty, again one of the highest in the countries, it is truly concerning.  Of course poverty and crime go hand in hand but it is a double whammy for the parents and children who live that fear every day.

These statistics may seem totally overwhelming but as I hear my Aunt’s voice spurring me on, I know we all have to at least try to make a difference.  Let us all find one thing to do this holiday season where we can make a significant contribution to one child who lives in dire circumstances.  It can be as easy as donating a gift, asking your company to match your donation, or as involved as giving your time to raise the spirits of children and encourage them in positive ways.

I personally pledged to one child in a school in Newark that I would return this year with gifts at the holidays. But I am not going alone.  I am going with 75 other people. Together we are taking gifts for hundreds, perhaps even thousands of children.  This is how I have chosen to answer Aunt Chloe’s pressing questions of what I can do to improve standards in this country. In her memory, I don’t want to stop there. I want to know, regardless of excuses, what will YOU do?