On the Doing of Good Deeds

| October 3, 2018 | 0 Comments

By

George Mitrovich

There was a time, say ten or fifteen-years ago, okay, twenty, maybe 30, when I was the media-go-to-Democrat in San Diego. Not surprising, as I have had a very high public profile for someone who never ran for elective office, but also as someone involved in a great many public undertakings, from race relations to a downtown ballpark for the Padres to strong mayor government – and forty-four years as founder and president of The City Club of San Diego.

But a big part of that profile was being publicly identified as a “Liberal Kennedy Democrat,” in a town, through many of those years, overwhelmingly Republican and conservative, very.

My wife, La Verle, told me I should stop telling people I was a “Liberal Kennedy Democrat,” because it just annoyed them, but I was good with that label; it is who I am. But that reputation is only partially me. The more significant part of me is this – I’m a confessing Christian.

I served for many years on the board and president of the Ecumenical Council of San Diego County, then an organization of more than hundred Christian churches, which included a significant Catholic presence; one greatly welcomed by me, as in the fundamentals of our faith, I was closer to them than to some of my theologically liberal Protestant colleagues – as a theological liberal I’m not.

My greatest single take-away from my experience on the Council, however, was this:

Absent the faith community the social tapestry of America unravels; that the social order cannot hold apart from Christian churches and Jewish congregations (and yes, mosques, too).

But in our ever-increasing secular society that fact is often overlooked or ignored, in large measure because there is profound ignorance of the salvific contributions made by our faith communities.

This frustrated me endlessly, especially as it relates to the media, which is fundamentally clueless on the significance of churches and other faith traditions in the whole of our social fabric.

That said, I want to share one example of what the faith community means, of the differences it makes in our everyday lives.

My example is the First United Methodist Church of San Diego; the church where my wife and I belong and have since the summer of ‘73.

If that makes me biased, then I’m biased, but I do not hold up “First Church,” as we call it, above other churches or other faith communities, but rather as the one I know best.

I simply wouldn’t do that, because I know the contributions other churches and congregations make, whether large or small, and know, therefore, how greatly the social tapestry is strengthened by their presence in our midst.

Which leads me to my example:

First Church has a partnership with Cherokee Point Elementary School in the San Diego community of City Heights. On opening day of the school year, five hundred backpacks were delivered to its students by our members and friends as gifts from our congregation (First Church does this annually).

We did this because many families in the community served by Cherokee Point face economic hardships and the cost of a backpack was beyond their means.

In addition, once a month, students and their families at Cherokee Point are invited to a free dinner at their school prepared by members and friends of First Church.

Weighed against the whole of our social disorders, the contributions made by one church may seem of little importance, but in the collective, the contributions made by churches, synagogues and mosques, is huge – and, as noted, if it isn’t there, the social order collapses.

But to this story line, I wish to add this:

On the Sunday morning before the school year began, Quyen Corral, principal at Cherokee Point, participated in First Church’s two services of worship. She came for the express purpose of thanking our congregation for the support provided her students, not least the gift of the backpacks.

In her presentation, Ms. Corral told her story, one that I found moving and inspiring — a wonderful American story.

She told us her parents left Vietnam at the end of that terrible war, searching for a better life. With fifty refugees they were on a small boat that encountered engine problems and was adrift on a vast ocean.

A Japanese merchant ship came to their rescue, the captain welcoming the fifty aboard his ship bound for Japan. Ms. Corral’s mother was expecting and Quyen was subsequently born in Japan. Thanks to the hospitality of nuns and the Catholic Church, Quyen’s family survived, and in time came to America, where she grew up, attending public schools, graduating from an American university, becoming a teacher in the San Diego Unified School District, and now principal at Cherokee Point.

Recently, Ms. Corral went back to Japan to meet the nuns who had befriended her and her parents; nuns she didn’t really know, because she was so young when her family came to these shores, but it was important for Quyen to see and thank them.

She also wanted to meet the captain of the merchant ship that saved the lives of fifty souls, lost and adrift in the Pacific. But she was not able to locate him, despite her best efforts. To her distress, she learned that when his ship returned to Japan, the captain was fired for his act of compassion and heroism, because Japan then had a law which forbade such acts of mercy involving Vietnamese boat people.

It was in that spirit, evidencing the grace of saying thank you, Ms. Corral came that Sunday morning to First Church.

Trust me when I tell you, Quyen Corral is one impressive young woman. I hope the parents of Cherokee Point students, understand how lucky they are to entrust their children’s education to Quyen, her teachers, and administrators.

And, let this serve yet as another reminder of the good and great deeds done by faith communities; deeds critical to our social stability, even if some among us seem clueless and thankless.

Don’t let that be you.

George Mitrovich is a San Diego civic leader. He can be reached at gmitro35@gmail.com.

 

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