Murder in Nebraska and Lasting Fame

>     The deeply disturbed 19-year-old gunman who sought “fame” by going on a shooting rampage at a Nebraska mall, killing 8 and wounding 5 others substantially achieved his goal. In the world of “15 minutes of fame” in which we live, CNN and other media outlets have, since the rampage occurred, more than granted him his wish by headlining his photo and identifying him by name for over 24 hours now…setting yet another example for yet another disturbed person to emulate.
    Fast food and fast fame, it appears, make for a diseased society. Which is what has me thinking about volunteerism and service to others.
    A recent poll by South Jersey Magazine found Pennsylvania and New Jersey 32 and 33 out of 50 states in the time their citizens spend volunteering.  Now, because I live in New Jersey, I was naturally less than proud of the statistical finding. But it wasn’t the ranking that got my attention, it was the apparent overall belief of those polled that giving money is the same as, and an acceptable substitute for, giving time.
    No, it’s not…although this belief does match up with the often-voiced Conservative cry that we are “the most charitable nation in the world” based upon dollars given.
    The problems with this assumption and conclusion are two-fold. 1) There is so much corruption, or at least monumental waste, within almost every large organization that what is given is but a fraction of what actually winds up with the intended recipient or doing any real good. 2) While it is money that purchases food and supplies and pays the way for emergency workers to be transported to crisis locations, it’s always the helping hand, the hug, the kind word, the physical and emotional interaction of one person with another that makes the real impact and has the lasting effect.
I have always thought that one of the real tragedies of 9/11 (following the loss of life) was the missed opportunity by President George Bush to ask each of us to step up and volunteer time in helping one another as a way of life and to personally alter our lifestyles to reduce our dependence upon foreign oil. He would have hit a home run with that one, and by so doing, caused us to make a significant and positive impact upon the quality of life in this country.
    My father was a very charitable man. He literally never saw or heard of suffering (human or animal) that he did not reach into his wallet and make a contribution. It’s a great legacy and one of which I am proud. But as each new generation sees things differently, and hopefully for the better, I have come to the conclusion that it’s the one-on-one acts of love that make the real difference.
    Personally, I have come up short in this regard. Always ready to provide a kind, encouraging or inspirational word to friends and others who cross my path, I have been remiss in donating real time on an individual basis. That’s why tomorrow I have an interview to volunteer 5-20 hours a month as a child advocate for the court system. As a former practicing attorney, mother, and plain old human being, I’m certain I can be of value. It’s just a start, but I know in my heart that “service” is the answer and so serve I must.
    There are as many ways to serve as there are people so just pick one that suits you and get on with it.
    Fifteen minutes of fame for taking 8 lives and wounding 5 others is the most fleeting of outcomes and in the end amounts to nothing except, perhaps, a marred Soul. But a sustained personal effort intended to positively impact the lives of others becomes a legacy and gift that will most likely keep on giving long after we are gone.
    Now there’s a red carpet I’d like to walk down.

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