Unobserved Citizenship

When people do not pay attention, how selfless are we? Must every act of citizenship initiate projects of personal prestige or compose lines on a résumé?

Harold Bunten and Joe Allee, retired septuagenarians, practiced responsible citizenship. “Mr. Bunten,” a former mechanic, and “Joe,” a WW II vet who fought on D-Day were best friends. My childhood home sat directly between theirs. My brother and I spent summer mornings in lawn chairs watching Mr. Bunten chew tobacco and listening to anecdotal lessons of loyalty, honor, and code. His regionally colloquial speech frequently used farming metaphors.  I spent evenings on Joe’s patio hearing significant lessons on love and family: the local orphanage raised Joe and his wife.

Both men were devoted grandfathers to two boys who lacked genetic grandfathers. Almost every K-12 school morning Mr. Bunten stood outside to wave goodbye as we left. Upon returning home, Joe asked for daily updates. Both examined report cards and scanned newspapers for our names.

The public never celebrated how they met the needs of our four-acre, three-homestead community. No award honored their generous gifts of time and sacrificial love. Mr. Bunten and Joe sought only personal authenticity—not reciprocation—in the relationships they fostered with us.

Today their influence shapes communities long after their deaths. My brother and I are educators; their lessons and the manner in which we learned them shape significantly our work with students.

Key to understanding responsible citizenship is self-sacrifice, authenticity, and a willingness to act in obscurity.

– Dr. Ronald Pitcock, TCU Faculty

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