Jim Jenkins

Carrying on, in the American Way

To hear Doomsday Donald Trump tell it, only he can save the U.S. of A. from the certain destruction that will come with the election of Hillary Clinton as president. Really, that’s what he’s saying of late, and for that matter has been saying for some time: that if Clinton is elected, it’s lights out for America, folks, the end of the story — literally.

This, even as the evidence of his despicable personal behavior keeps on coming. So now he’s doubling down on a dark tale indeed, of a country in collapse, guided to oblivion by the corrupt Democratic forces of evil. Hillary Clinton as Darth Vader. If Dick Cheney will give up the helmet and the light saber. Does Trump see himself as young Skywalker? No. Oz, maybe.

Trump doubtless would find a conspiracy in one who dares to repudiate his self-serving, alarmist rhetoric, but so be it. For we have around us, just in the Triangle and North Carolina, more than abundant evidence that the country is better, stronger, more compassionate and smarter than the candidate thinks it is. On the verge of destruction? Hardly.

As the campaign reaches its final weeks, and the vision of evil bombards us, here is what is going on in our corner of America:

Today, as with most days, the Shepherd’s Table Soup Kitchen will be serving lunch to hungry people in downtown Raleigh. Volunteers will arrive and lay out the bread and drinks and get the trays ready and then at 11 a.m., people of all ages will begin to arrive. No questions are asked. They will eat what for most will be their only meal of the day, and some will get to take a snack with them. They will be uplifted by the smiles of those volunteers, who will stay afterward and prepare the room for the next day. When the good Pilgrims leave, their problems still will weigh heavily, but they’ll feel just a little better about themselves.

And in stores and businesses all around the Triangle, boxes are being brought out for annual coat drives. Before fall has gone to winter, the boxes will have filled up and been delivered several times. Many a grandchild will give up a coat, or go shopping for one with a parent, so that another 8- or 9-year-old won’t be shivering in December.

It’s safe to say that sometime today, ministers from local churches, mine included I’ll bet, will be making the rounds to see members of the flock who are home-bound. On some days, the visits will go well into the night, delivering comfort and laughter and sure, while they’re at it, why not send up a prayer or two.

And this day and this week, just as always, the teachers in public school classrooms will be watching — not for mischief, but for need. They’ll spend their own money for supplies, certainly, but they look at the kids more closely than you think, making lunch money and backpacks and snacks appear for those who need them. They will make sure their charges don’t go without at Christmas, either.

At area restaurants, preparations already are under way for come one-come all Thanksgiving feasts for the homeless and hungry. That holiday, of course, has a cruel irony for the poor, for whom blessings seem few and far between. But give thanks they do, often with more enthusiasm than do those of us with much more than our share.

And then ... then comes that most inspiring of sights, the first appearances of the Salvation Army bell ringers, who’ll stand in the cold and wind until after Christmas, collecting pennies and quarters and sometimes folding cash from passersby. A now elderly fellow tells why he never passes a kettle without emptying his pockets when he can: “My father was in World War II, and the Salvation Army used to feed the guys near the front lines. The first time I put his money in the kettle, he said it would be for kids my age who were hungry. Never forgot that.”

These things happen across America, even in times of political feuding when the volume seems to drown out all else, including reason and reality. Even when the crown prince of demagogues winds up with a presidential nomination.

But the truth is found in those soup kitchens and around those kettles and in those classrooms and every time a box of donated clothes is emptied. That is a country with spirit and strength and compassion, not one anywhere close to destruction.

Deputy editorial page editor Jim Jenkins can be reached at 919-829-4513 or at jjenkins@newsobserver.com