August 2002 – I got so excited. I had ordered three sandwiches at Subway and once again I had collected enough stickers to get a free one. A free six-inch sandwich. “Yes! Man, it’s great to be an American,” I thought. “Try this in Afghanistan.”
Then I asked the cashier for the stickers I was due from the order I had just paid for. A few times I have walked out of Subway, gotten halfway home, and remembered that I forgot to collect my stickers. What I am saying is I have been stuck without my stickers before. It’s not a good feeling. Still with me?
Funny thing is, I’ve never been a penny pincher. Never collected stamps or coupons. Never even dropped my change in coffee cans at the end of each day like some of my friends have. (They say you can save a lot of money that way. But how do you put a dollar value on the number of months it takes to count the change?)
In fact, I’ve always considered myself a generous type of guy. I suppose we all like to think of ourselves as givers, not takers. But did you know – if you will allow me a little bragging here – that statistics show that Mississippians are the most generous people in the entire United States of America. It’s true. Mississippians give away more “heart stickers,” if you will, than any other people in the country. A recent news story read:
Mississippians may average less income than their neighbors, but they are more willing to share what they have, according to the 50-state generosity index‚ complied by the Boston-based Ellis L. Phillips Foundation.
“We hear about Southern hospitality and the warmth of the people down there. And it’s true. You guys are more hospitable,” said George McCully, trustee of the philanthropic foundation begun in 1930 by the founder of the Long Island Lighting Co.
McCully’s annual index measures itemized charitable contributions reported to the Internal Revenue Service compared to the average income of residents. Since 1993, Mississippi has ranked first or second in the index.
Mississippi was 49th in income and sixth in charitable deductions to earn the top ranking. Rounding out the top five were South Dakota, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Alabama. New Hampshire was last, New Jersey 49th with Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Minnesota completing the bottom five.
To what does Mr. McCully attribute the poorest giving the most? “One of the things that puts Mississippi where it is is that it has a very large percentage of evangelical Christians,” he said. McCully noted that the split between church and secular charitable giving is about 50-50 showing, “People who give, care more.”
There is no question that the influence of Christianity on the Mississippi social fabric is significant. In fact, if you look at the states that are the most generous, four of the five are from what is commonly called the Bible Belt – Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Alabama. Even the lone non-southern state in that top five has the word “South” in its name. What does that tell you? Nothing, really. If anything, it suggests I have over-analyzed the survey and run out of things to write about. But I haven’t.
If I may broaden this concept, do you know what country has been the most giving, most generous, most caring country in all of history? I would say, without hesitation, it is the good ol’ U.S.A. Look at the American-based charities that send food and medicine around the world. Look at the hospitals and schools we’ve founded.
And this is the private sector. Our government gives billions of dollars in foreign aid to third world countries. We just gave billions to those suffering from AIDS in Africa. And today I read about America sending relief to the people of Iran who are the effects of an earthquake.
Do you know why Americans have done so much for so many around the world? It’s because of the influence of Christianity on our national soul over the past 200 plus years. We have tried to model the acts of Jesus in how we treat other peoples. Have we been perfect? No. Has government always done what is right? No. But still, if you look at our history, an objective person can see the good that Americans have done for people around the world. And even the wars we have engaged in have been ultimately for the cause of human rights and freedom.
The Christian influence on our country will only be as strong as the Christian church in America. Join me in praying that God would strengthen His church in our land.