Opinion | Liddick: Nevertheless, Gary Sinese persisted
December 24, 2018
The stock market continues to drift, mostly downward. The national mood seems sour. The bickering of our political classes appears to have infected much of the population. Tribalism burgeons, paranoia spreads; we are seized with conspiracy theories, each wilder, more all-encompassing and more threatening than the last.
The days are short, the nights long and dark and there's only so much skiing, skating and drinking one can do to assuage the general ill-feeling. Some are grumpy because they didn't get their way politically two years ago, maintaining a grudge so long it has now become a habit. Others are angry because chaos and unreason seem to be gaining the upper hand. Even Christmas, that joyous day we celebrate today, seems somehow a little grayer and less joyous.
The usual models for those dealing with less-than-stellar feelings while all about are flushed with celebration are saints — either the real thing, like Augustine or Francis or Joseph; even Nicholas, whose name is fixed to the small hours of the morning — or secular, like Albert Schweitzer, Martin Niemöller or Dr. King. They are all people who are other-centered; they confronted adversity, and they generally gave better than they got.
If one is looking for such an inspiration, or even a role model in this indifferent season, one could do worse than look to actor and musician Gary Sinise. Certainly not a matinee idol nor the stuff of box-office blockbusters, he is tolerated rather than appreciated in Hollywood since, like a few others, his politics are not those of most in Tinseltown. But he has done great things, and to little fanfare.
A few days ago his foundation funded the "Snowball Express" to fly over a thousand children in "gold star" families to Disney World for five days' diversion. Gold star families, for those unfamiliar with the term, means one whose military family member has been killed on duty. Usually, it's mom or dad. Usually the children are young when the bereavement occurs. Usually the impact is massive, and not for the better.
Sinise has been active for decades in supporting veterans and the families of those who have given their lives on the battlefield. The Gary Sinise Foundation, which he founded and continues to guide as chairman of the board does its work efficiently. It received a score of 100 out of 100 from "Charity Navigator" and a Gold Seal from their partner "Guidestar" for transparency and effectiveness in accomplishing stated goals. But he receives few accolades for his foundation's accomplishments, little support from his colleagues on the left coast and no recognition from most media outlets for his tireless and effective works of charity.
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Given that cold shoulder, one might expect him to be resigned, or even bitter about the indifference to his accomplishments. He is not. Instead, he continues to be enthusiastic about his support for the families of soldiers, sailors and airmen who have paid the ultimate price for the freedoms most of the rest of us cavalierly regard as our right and due, by birth. Their thanks seems sufficient recompense to him.
We could all learn something from Sinise in this season of sacrifice and redemption. He does what he does neither for gain, nor publicity, nor accolades — in Hollywood, supporting military families or even recognizing their challenges and losses as praiseworthy is not a route to profit or fame. Infamy, perhaps — but that's hardly the same. Nevertheless, he persists.
A cynic would doubtless find pedestrian or even self-serving motives in Sinise's actions, whether they existed or not. But in this season, it might be appropriate to look for others — less familiar in today's climate, but more important. Perhaps what we should recognize are the actions of true charity, which offers without expectation of reward or even recognition. Maybe, just maybe, Sinise does what he does because it is the right thing to do: giving comfort and aid to those who have lost much, so that others may continue to live their lives in careless oblivion to the real cost of their freedom to act as they please.
In this season we should all take a moment to think on that and ask ourselves what we have done to honor and support those who sacrifice themselves for us. What we have done to better the lives of our neighbors, our friends — and even those who show us no friendship or gratitude. We don't have to achieve what Sinise does, but we should at least try to do something. And if we come up short as most of us do, there's always time to try again. This is after all the season of hope.
This, and every season that follows. Merry Christmas.
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily News.
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