It seems that every day we are being bombarded with the latest developments in the ecclesiastical mud-slinging at Mt. Bethel United (?) Methodist Church in East Cobb. We read about the Cobb County GOP censuring Gov. Brian Kemp “for failing to carry out campaign promises concerning illegal immigration,” thereby reinforcing Republicans penchant for self-destruction.
We have the most dysfunctional school board in memory arguing over masks vs. no masks and playing the race card like a zither. Our county commission inexplicably approves zoning for condominiums inside Dobbins Air Reserve Base’s Accident Potential Zone, where crashes during takeoff and landing are most likely to occur.
As such, we tend to forget that there are a lot of good people around us quietly going about their daily lives and doing good deeds. Many of them go to church on Sunday, focused on their personal relationship with their God and not on lawsuits.
There are people who never miss an opportunity to vote, because they consider it a solemn obligation and not because they are drinking the political Kool-Aid of wingnuts on either end of the political spectrum.
The MDJ publishes regularly Acts of Kindness, featuring volunteers working at homeless shelters or distributing food to the needy. Cooking meals for cancer patients or raising money for Christmas gifts to children who otherwise would have none.
We tend to overlook the goodness in people. It is too easy to focus on the negative natterers because they tend to be louder. But, thankfully, there are those who are making a positive difference in their own quiet way with their own good deeds.
Which brings me to my friend, Tom Wilder. If that name is familiar to you, Wilder represented Cobb County in the Georgia General Assembly from 1983 to 1993, along with some familiar names like Johnny Isakson, Buddy Darden and Roy Barnes.
Today, Wilder, who is 78 and owns a real estate firm in Cherokee County, is a member of the Georgia National Cemetery Advisory Council, raising funds for special projects and none is more special than Wreaths Across America.
This event scheduled for December 18-19 will involve the placing of some 18,000 wreaths on the grave of more than 22,000 veterans interred at the Georgia National Cemetery in Cherokee County. On the 18th, wreaths will be placed by family members and the next day by volunteers.
The wreath-laying is a moving ceremony. A balsam wreath embellished with a red ribbon bow is placed at each site and then the name of the individual being honored is called out.
Wilder is hoping to raise some $200,000 for the purchase of the wreaths and to get enough volunteers to lay out them out over the 775-acre facility. To date, he says they are halfway to their financial goal and is optimistic they will make it.
Last year was a challenge. Money was late coming in and the pandemic required social distancing and masks and gloves. There was no public ceremony but somehow when you are doing good deeds, things work themselves out. And they did. Now it is a new year and new challenges.
One of Wilder’s tasks is to raise public awareness of national cemeteries. “Many people don’t know that military cemeteries exist,” he says, “unless you are a veteran or the family of a veteran. I went back and did some research and found that less than ten percent of the population served in the military in the period from 1964 to 1975 and only about 12 percent served during World War II. That says to me that a majority of Americans have no connection to the men and women who served in our military.” They should. We are losing our military veterans at the rate of over 200 each month.
Most of the money raised for Wreaths Across America comes from individuals. Seventy percent of the donations are in the $15-30 range. Wilder is still trying to figure out how to get corporations to participate. He has had some success this year with contributions from Shaw Industries and Walmart but there is much work yet to be done. “Ironically,” he says, “both Delta Air Lines and Home Depot employees have been very active with us. We just need to figure out how to get their companies involved.”
If you would like to be a part of Wreaths Across America, you can go online to www.ganationalcemetery.org and make a donation or you can send a check to Georgia National Cemetery Advisory Council, Post Office Box 5476, Canton, GA 30114-9998. Donations are tax deductible. The website is also the place where you can volunteer to participate in the December ceremony.
It is due to the efforts of people like Tom Wilder – doing good deeds not because they have to but because it is the right thing to do – that I am reminded that the political wingnuts and race-baiters are but a noisy and marginal part of our society. Full of sound and fury and signifying nothing. Let’s focus instead on the goodness in this world and keep it all in perspective.