If you think America has lost its way, don't blame Uncle John.
He paid his debt to society, and then some.
John Gordon Creel passed away last week at 88.
He was raised on a farm in Doraville, Ga., and by age 4 could pick 40 pounds of cotton a day. His mother made so many biscuits for her family of four boys and a girl that she wore a hole in the bottom of her wooden biscuit bowl.
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That area is now known for the "spaghetti junction" of twisted layers of concrete overpasses on I-285, the autobahn around Atlanta. But then it was a place where the Creels knew they had to work hard behind mules named Maude, Kate, Emma and Rhoda -- or starve.
Uncle John and his brothers went off to fight tyranny in World War II. Five military medals were framed on the wall in his room at Kentwood Extended Care in Augusta. They surrounded a photo of a boyish artillery corporal who somehow came home from battles in Normandy, Northern France, Germany, Belgium and the Battle of the Bulge.
He went to college and was a rural letter carrier for 33 years. He and his wife, Anita Burke Creel, an elementary school teacher, paid cash for their cars, as well as the red brick home where they raised two daughters down the slope from the old family barn. He helped Anita successfully fulfill her lifetime goal of seeing all 50 state capitols.
Uncle John recently read the Bible through in four months, though he had lost sight in one eye. He studied biblical commentary, was a church officer and at one time taught Sunday school, reading to children from "Bird Life in Wington" by the Rev. John Calvin Reid, a former pastor at First Presbyterian Church on Hilton Head Island. He also cooked a pot of greens for the church supper every Wednesday night.
Uncle John loved the Atlanta Braves and always planted a garden. He grew delicious butter beans and a row of cotton just to remind him he didn't have to mess with it anymore.
He was a quiet man who called his daughters every morning as they started their day and seemed to relish the blur of his five young grandchildren.
It always seemed to me that Uncle John paid society at every turn. But there was more.
Only at his funeral did I learn that in the 1980s, Uncle John learned the amount of the national debt and what it would cost every citizen to pay it off. He wrote a check for his portion and mailed it to his U.S. senator's office. The government cashed the check and sent a thank-you note.
His daughters don't think it was a large sum like it would be today. To repay the national debt of $15.8 trillion today would cost each citizen $50,357. In the 1980s, the debt rose from $4,000 to $12,000 per citizen.
The government gladly accepts personal gifts to repay the public debt, by check or, appropriately enough, credit card. So far this fiscal year, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has received $5.8 million in gifts.
Instead of all that, America should simply switch to Uncle John's example and turn Congress out with the mules to work hard or starve.