“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
It was the kind of question you ask a 3-year-old granddaughter. Her answer wasn’t the kind of you expect from a 3-year-old granddaughter who loves dressing up as fairy-tale characters and dreams of all things Disney.
“I want to be a better person,” she said.
No, really. I know you think I am putting words in her mouth to make a better story the way preachers are wont to do. Or you may think it’s the kind of answer an oldest child, parent and grandparent-pleasing kid gives when she knows that her father, mother and grandfather are all ministers. But, honestly, she did.
I imagine my spiritually-intuitive, morally-advanced granddaughter has no real idea of what becoming a better person entails. It may have to do with being more like Cinderella than her conniving stepmother and stepsisters. It may involve becoming more like the beauty, Belle, who is so sweet to the ugly Beast that he becomes the handsome prince he was always meant to be. Maybe there is a Jesus story behind it — something about a little boy who shares his five loaves and two small fish so that other hungry people can eat, or returning kindness to someone mean.
It was on the Fourth of July that I asked. Which made me think not only of how we all might become better persons but how we might become better Americans by becoming better persons.
An adage always misattributed to the French observer of early American culture, Alexis de Tocqueville, is nonetheless true enough of this country and any: “America is great because she is good; when she ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” Becoming a better person means to grow in goodness, something that is far too low on the list of usual dreams of children and adults alike.
We dream too much of status, stuff and security. We want to distinguish ourselves from others by becoming famous or important. We want to have enough possessions to live in comfort until we lie down for good under green pastures. We want to keep away anyone who would take our stuff or threaten our life of leisure. We call these things freedom — freedom from the masses, from want and from danger.
But be careful what you want, Emerson once said, for you shall surely get it. Becoming good is partly about training our desires to worthy ends. Since we will all die one day, and on that day our status, stuff and safety will be no more, we might consider what will endure. What remains, St. Paul said, are faith, hope and love — each of which is focused outward.
In philosophies and religions alike, the answer to what it means to be good can only be found in seeking your neighbor’s good. Goodness is never a solitary virtue; it is only found in relation to others. This is why President Kennedy was right in calling us to “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
When our deepest joy is found in the gladness of another, we are on our way to fulfilling a 3-year-old’s ambition, our Maker’s intention and America’s vision.
LAKESIDE BAPTIST / 9150 Garland Rd / 214.324.1425
Worship — 8:30 am Classic & 11:00 am Contemporary
Pastor Jeff Donnell / www.lbcdallas.com
PARK CITIES BAPTIST CHURCH / 3933 Northwest Pky / pcbc.org
All services & Bible Study 9:15 & 10:45
Trad. & Blended (Sanctuary), Contemporary (Great Hall), Amigos de Dios (Gym)
WILSHIRE BAPTIST / 4316 Abrams / 214.452.3100
Pastor George A. Mason Ph.D. / Worship 8:30 & 11:00 am
Bible Study 9:40 am / www.wilshirebc.org
NORTH HIGHLANDS BIBLE CHURCH / www.nhbc.net / 9626 Church Rd.
Sunday: LifeQuest (all ages) 9:00 am / Worship 10:30 am
Student Ministry: Wednesday & Sunday 7:00 pm / 214.348.9697
DISCIPLES OF CHRIST
CENTRAL CHRISTIAN CHURCH / 4711 Westside Drive / 214.526.7291
Sunday Worship 11:00 am ./ Sunday School 9:45am
Wed. Bible Study 5:00 pm./ www.cccdt.org / ALL are welcome
EAST DALLAS CHRISTIAN CHURCH / 629 N. Peak Street / 214.824.8185
Sunday School 9:30 am / THE TABLE Worship Gathering 9:30 am
Worship 8:30 & 10:50 am / Rev. Deborah Morgan / www.edcc.org
HIGHLANDS CHRISTIAN CHURCH (Lake Highlands) 9949 McCree Rd.
214-348-2805 / www.highlandschristianchurch.com
Sundays: School 9:45 am / Worship 11:00 am / Rev. Paul Carpenter
CENTRAL LUTHERAN CHURCH, ELCA / 1000 Easton Road
Sunday School for all ages 9:00 am / Worship Service 10:30 am
Pastor Rich Pounds / CentralLutheran.org / 214.327.2222
FIRST UNTIED LUTHERAN CHURCH / 6202 E Mockingbird Ln.
Sunday Worship Service 10:30 am / Call for class schedule.
214.821.5929 / www.dallaslutheran.org
LAKE HIGHLANDS UMC / 9015 Plano Rd. / 214.348.6600 / lhumc.com
Sunday Morning: 9:30 am Sunday School / 10:30 am Coffee
Worship: 8:30 am & 10:50 am Traditional / 10:50 am Contemporary
WHITE ROCK UNITED METHODIST / www.wrumc.org
1450 Oldgate Lane / 214.324.3661
Sunday Worship 10:50 am / Rev. George Fisk
LAKE HIGHLANDS CHURCH / 9919 McCree / 214.348.0460
Sundays: Classes 9:30, Coffee 10:25, Assembly 10:45
Home groups meet on weeknights. / lakehighlandschurch.org
LAKE HIGHLANDS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH / 214.348.2133
8525 Audelia Road at NW Hwy. / www.lhpres.org
9:00 am Contemporary, 9:55 am Christian Ed., 11:00 am Traditional
NORTHPARK PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH / 214.363.5457
9555 N. Central Expwy. / www.northparkpres.org
Pastor: Rev. Brent Barry / 8:30 & 11:00 am Sunday Services
UNITY OF DALLAS / A Positive Path For Spiritual Living
6525 Forest Lane, Dallas, TX 75230 / 972.233.7106 / UnityDallas.org
Sunday services: 9:00 am & 11:00 am