What’s with the Statue?

The Seated Boxer, an iconic ancient Greek work of art, shows a grizzled veteran of the ring, equal parts resigned and ready to spring into action. 

What I like is a sense of respite from competition, the powerful athletic physique and the tiredness that surrounds his humanity.  Is he a winner this day? Are there more fights to go?  How will his efforts be remembered?

These are questions that all of us encounter, in literal or figurative ways, in our daily efforts. 

Continue reading “What’s with the Statue?”

“Good People All”

Today’s carol and credit union story is captured in the opening line of the music below. First, the credit union’s account.

Every Touchpoint Matters

This is the story of a member contacting  the President of his Credit Union  after reading the monthly Newsletter.  And what happened next.  (used with permission)

From: Daniel H. <dh@xxx.com>
Sent: Wednesday, November 15, 2023 11:32 AM
To: Jeff Carpenter <jeffc@weokie.org>
Subject: Thank you

I received your news letters In Regards of thanksgiving and all the delightful things Weokie does for their members.  my wife and I are thankful for you and the company for providing good deeds to the community.  we ourselves have been struggling and I’m not going to lie. our account has been at struggles with overdrafting every month to make ends meet. but we work every day to try to improve ourselves to be better. one day our account will stay on the positive side and look forward to all the new adventures to come.

I loved this message because our member, who is going through some health and financial challenges, was simply thanking WEOKIE for being such a great community citizen.

Thanks to Diane we were able to learn more about his account.  We agreed that I should reach out to see if a meeting would be of interest.  I engaged in an email exchange with Daniel and coordinated a meeting with Daniel and his wife Jessica to meet with Patrick  and myself at South.

Setting up a Meeting

Patrick did some great work preparingfor the meeting. Together we probed to learn their story and understand how they got to this situation. Much was from their trying to help so many others in their family.

Patrick talked  through lots of options. I might have added some too, but in the end, Patrick was able to convince everyone (yes, including me) that taking “one step” not sixty, was the best path forward.

We extended a significant signature loan to get them out of the mountain of high-risk debt that was pushing them to the brink of financial collapse.  Patrick was empathetic, yet firm, in his conversations. He was able to gain agreement to eliminate Courtesy Pay, for WEOKIE to handle the pay-offs, and to set up automatic loan payments on the day their monthly income is credited to their WEOKIE accountall of these help mitigate our risk.

We met with them, took the loan application, approved it, and paid off their high-interest loans in 48 hours.  That led to the following email from Daniel:

From: Daniel H. <dh@xxx.com>
Sent: Tuesday, November 28, 2023 3:47 PM
To: Jeff Carpenter <jeffc@weokie.org>
Subject: thank you


My wife and I would like to thank you for the help you and your team for the opportunity to help us succeed in our goals and for giving us Patrick to work with. he was an awesome gentleman. he worked hard to help us out and succeeded in getting what we needed done for a good approval. I’m looking forward to a good start in bettering ourself. we will keep in contact and keep you updated on our success. 

thanks again 

Dan and Jessica

Special thanks to Melissa, Diane, and Patrick for letting me participate in living our vision of making a difference, one person at a time.  And affirming that “every touchpoint matters” is a good strategy.

Today’s Music of the Season

The Wexford Carol  is a traditional religious Irish Christmas carol originating from the town Enniscorthy in County Wexford. The subject of the song is the nativity of Jesus Christ.  This recording is from Clare College, Cambridge in composer John Rutter’s arrangement, which begins with Good people all.



A Special Time of Year

Ed Callahan as both Director of the DFI in Illinois and as Chair of NCUA, had a post-Thanksgiving practice to recognize the December holiday spirit.  He would find a local radio station that  played holiday music as its full time programming through Christmas.  In  Washington the classical FM stations used to follow this practice.

He kept the volume low, but still  enough to acknowledge the special spirit and joy this time of year can bring.

But work does not go away.   December is the month that the NCUA board will make very consequential decisions on the amount of credit union funds it proposes to spend.

The budget agenda includes how much is spent, the normal operating level (NOL) for the insurance fund, the Overhead Transfer Rate (OTR) taken from the NCUSIF,  and how the full year financials for  three credit union funded operations were managed.

December’s posts will imitate Ed’s practice by presenting music of the season.   At the same time, I will preview some of the data and issues for NCUA’s upcoming budget approvals, along with other observations.

This is a season of joy and beauty, sometimes beyond our understanding.  But amid these moments of glory the real world events  of power used and misused continue.

Angels We Have Heard on High

This French Christmas hymn was translated by James Chadwick and is performed by a traditional choir.


NCUA’s Budget Creep: Growing from a Specialist to an 8-Person Office

On February 10, 2020 NCUA ‘s IG published an investigation  titled Misuse of Official Time, Illegal Drug Use, Time and Attendance Fraud.

In a March 9, 2020 post, I wrote of the personal indiscretions by Michael McKenna, NCUA General Counsel (July 2011 to November 2019) and his Deputy General Counsel Lara Daly-Sims.

The IG report detailed strip club visits and drinking while on the job from February 2017 through the beginning of the investigation in November 2019.  The General Counsel is the Agency’s senior legal officer providing interpretations and support directly to the NCUA Board and Chair.

Besides replacing the Agency’s two top lawyers, what else did the Board do about this high level leadership failure?   On April 22, 2020 NCUA announced that in a March closed meeting the Board decided to hire a “chief ethics counsel.”

Supervised by the chairman, the press release stated: “The Office of Ethics Counsel will certify the agency’s compliance with relevant federal ethics laws and regulations, promote accountability and ethical conduct, and help ensure the success of the NCUA’s ethics programs.” This responsibility had been under the General Counsel’s office.

This personnel performance failure was resolved by expanding staff, a classic bureaucratic response to a problem. This new position was necessary to inform three board members, their personal policy advisors, senior staff including the executive director and deputy, the general counsel and deputy, and the human resources office the difference between right and wrong behavior!

The real problem was actually a failure of administrative oversight, not understanding morality.  The hiring was a political act to divert responsibility from all the senior staff who worked closely with these people during the episodes described in the IG’s investigation.

But is there any downside for another pair of eyes reviewing the agency’s personnel actions.  There is. It quickly became much more than one pair of eyes.

The 2024 NCUA budget increases the Office of Ethics Counsel to 8 full time staff with an average salary of $293,000 each.  This 15.2%  increase pushes the total 2024  expenditures to $2.449 million.

Some believe that problems are solved by government  spending more.  In this episode of personal indiscretions, the solution has grown from a “chief ethics counsel” to a separate, new legal department of  8 full time employees.

This is the pattern across NCUA’s ever expanding budgets for 20 separate “Offices” and three regions.

Harper and Hood both approved this solution (McWaters was replaced by Hauptman).   Is now the time to assess this ever-growing cost to determine whether there are more efficient ways to address the Agency’s ethical climate?

If safety and soundness is the Agency’s primary purpose how does an 8-person Ethics Office contribute?  These positions are in addition to the 44- person legal department and 47 employed in human resources.  Are ethics of the NCUA staff really that big a problem?




A Surprising Listing on LinkedIn

Jason Lindstrom, CEO at the $535 million Evergreen Credit Union in Portland, Maine posted the following yesterday:

We’ve got a great Board of Directors and are looking for great people to join our Board. Please let me know if you are interested.

Are you a passionate Maine business owner, community leader, or senior manager looking to collaborate with professionals like you? We’re looking for hardworking Mainers to serve on Evergreen’s Board of Directors. 🌲

On our Board, you’ll be sharing your knowledge and collaborating with Evergreen’s leadership team to create change in our credit union for our members and positively impact your community.

Evergreen Credit Union is the 5th largest credit union in Maine with over $535 million in assets to date. We’re proud to serve over 28,000 members throughout 6 counties in southern Maine. We’re excited for Evergreen Credit Union to grow as we continue to bring award-winning member service and products that help our members every day.

Ready to start? To submit your application or inquire, email ceo@egcu.org by December 15.

An All Hands Effort

I called Jason to find out more about this unique approach recruiting new board volunteers, all unpaid.

The credit union has nine voting members and three non-voting directors. As a community charter, it is vital for the credit union to expand relations with  local organizations.   Jason is on three 501C3 volunteer boards and a Maine League director.

In prior years and again this year, the credit union had placed ads for board openings in local papers, but received no response.  Finding volunteers has become more difficult effort for all his associations.  A different approach was necessary to attract persons whose might feel they had little spare time to give.

The board decided to go all out in its search for three openings in 2024 by using social media. An ad was placed on Facebook.  Directors and staff were asked to repost the announcement on their social media accounts, hoping to expand the audience reached.

Building Deeper Community Ties

In most credit unions, board recruitment is a private affair.   Candidates are incumbents, self-nominated, or sought from directors’ existing relationships.  The process is characterized  by political considerations versus a public invitation for leadership talent.

Evergreen’s strategy is to be more and more “community connected.”   Membership has been growing at almost 7% per year.   In a largely rural state, people value their local relationships and organizations.  Informing the community in this messaging effort is another illustration of their commitment to Portland and surrounding towns.

Reinforcing their community ties is integral to Evergreen’s business model.  Tapping into the Maine spirit that values relationships is vital to attracting motivated talent. And as Ed Callahan would say, “When you run with good people, good things will happen.”




Next City’s Take on Credit Unions

Often outsiders offer fresh insight about what makes credit unions special then found in the industry’s own internal coverage.

Next City is a digital journalism site that provides innovative examples of individuals and organizations confronting the challenges of urban life.   Its focus is on solutions that improve the conditions of those  most disadvantaged in large cities.

Credit unions are frequent go-to examples.  The following are two recent reports that highlight their special roles.

Juntos Avanzamos: “together we advance”

The first story is: This is what a Credit Union Designed for the Hispanic Community Looks Like.

The article describes the efforts of Granite Credit Union in Salt Lake County, Utah to receive the Juntos Avanzamos designation.This designation certifies that the credit union is committed to serving Hispanic and immigrant communities by being accessible to Spanish speakers, conducting research on the local Hispanic community, offering accessible and relevant affordable housing programs, and more.

The story reports that the Hispanic/Latino population continues to rise in pockets across the U.S.  including by 37.6% in Utah from 2010 to 2020.

The article presents the history and process for the Juntos Avanzamos designation which now spans over 27 states.   The credit union model is an ideal fit for many of these new Americans because: “When you give someone an opportunity and take a chance with them when all other doors are closed, it builds incredible loyalty, sometimes for life.”

“The Fabric that Makes America”

A November 21, 2023 article, The Outsized Impact of Small Credit Unions, interviews Sue Cuevas, the CEO of the $4.8 Nueva Esperanza Community Credit Union in Toledo, Ohio.  The second credit union leader is Sheilah Montgomery CEO of the $24 million Florida A&M University Federal Credit Union in Tallahassee, Florida.

The CEO’s comments are candid and illustrate the realities of small credit unions with a deep commitment to serving their communities.  Here are short excerpts from the Q&A portion of the story:

Our overhead is much lower than some of your billion-dollar financial institutions. We have one branch, an ATM and eight staff team members. But we have a full-service financial institution. Because of our lower overhead, we’re keeping our interest rates lower than our competitors. . .For instance, we did loans with no credit checks.

On the Latino community in Ohio:  The pandemic really hit hard. A lot of (our members) lost their jobs. They were in restaurants, housekeeping, places that shut down. . . Where I’m located people don’t even know what a 401K is. Right now, we don’t offer checking accounts. Most of our credit union members speak Spanish. They don’t know how to write in English. So, checking accounts to them are very foreign. . .

Currently we’re located in the basement of a health clinic. You have to come down some very big steps. It’s not an advantage to my members. The parking area is also very limited. So, our initiative is to get into a much larger location above ground, which allows our members the ability to come in safely and park safely.

FAMU: Since we are a full-service financial organization, we offer a plethora of products and services and most recently we’ve expanded our business loan services to help small businesses, who we like to call the fabric that makes up America. We processed approximately $2 million in small business loans over the last 18 months.

These stories show credit union relevance is not based on asset size, but the power of serving others.  Their example should make us all proud of a system that attracts leaders living these commitments for their communities.

Should the Past Matter? Mission and Co-ops

How important is the knowledge of an organization’s past for a new leader?  Isn’t the responsibility of any CEO to take a firm forward from the present to the future?  Moreover, can’t one rely on existing staff and members to affirm what is important to know from history-if needed?

This is not a hypothetical situation.  Credit unions will sometimes choose new leaders with no connection to the organization or even to credit unions.  An example is BECU’s new CEO. One current NCUA board member and the newly nominated member waiting Senate confirmation have no prior association with credit unions.

How History Informs the Present

Recently I attended the 300th anniversary of the “founding” of the Bethesda Presbyterian Church.  The date of 1723 is somewhat arbitrary as there are no specific records except the journeys of itinerate ministers who came from Philadelphia to Cabin John and Bethesda to hold services.

According to the cornerstone, a new church building was constructed in 1850 on the tallest hill in the area after the original 1829 structure was destroyed by fire.  The church was called Bethesda.  It was named after the pool of Bethesda in the biblical story of the lame man waiting to be lifted into healing waters.  That eventually became the name of the town that grew up in the area.

The 1850 church and Victorian era manse occupy four acres which includes a cemetery.  The Presbyterian church founded there, moved to a new location in 1925. Various other congregations have used the buildings since.  In 2019, the entire site was abandoned.  The buildings and surrounding grounds have had no maintenance.

Nevertheless the buildings have received an Historic Site designation which prohibits it from being developed as a commercial or residential project today.

The church has seen some historic moments.  During the Civil War confederate cavalry occupied the site before union soldiers drove them away.  Abraham Lincoln is said to have visited the church.

The building contains the original beautiful sandwich glass windows.  There is a slave quarters in the rear back balcony of the church.  The original bell was stolen from its moorings in October of this year.

Besides its long historical role, why should this past matter to modern day Bethesda?  When we moved here in 1982, the town was still small, marked by single and double story buildings surrounded by  family homes and apartments.  The metro had not opened.  One could drive in and park on the lot at the Hot Shop in the town’s center.

Today Bethesda is a developer’s dream with twenty story multi-use condos and offices multiplying like rabbits.  No small parcel is exempt from this vertical expansion, except for the Tastee diner that sits at the foot of Marriott’s World Headquarters.

Reason for Resurrecting the Site

What does an abandoned, overrun hill with two deteriorating buildings mean to this new mecca of upscale commerce and residences?

In a talk during the 300th anniversary celebration of the Church, a local volunteer historian presented his thoughts on why preserving a community’s history matters.

The church is old and freighted with history.  Which begs the question of why we are here, celebrating it.  To me, the answer is that shared history is an important part of what defines a community. We can only understand and celebrate what we are when we understand and appreciate how we came to be. And we look to the past to prepare for the future because, as James Burke wisely observed, “there is nowhere else to look.”

In the end, it doesn’t matter that we can’t pinpoint the founding date of this congregation.  What matters is that the history of Bethesda Presbyterian Church and its (original) Meeting House is literally the history of Bethesda—its rise, its growth, its weaknesses, its redemption.

No other building or institution comes close.  How did we begin?  Look here. How did we cope with slavery and its legacy?  Look here.  How did we evolve from a farm hamlet to a suburb to an urban center with all the strengths and challenges that brings.  Look here.

Credit Unions, History and Mission

Credit unions have played an integral role in their members’ lives and what it means to be part of a “community” initially called a “field of membership.”

It is not the buildings and products that define a coop, but rather belonging to a group whose mission is to take care of each other, even today.  Members bring their history, sometimes their entire lives, contributing to keeping it going.

That continuity of mission is why credit unions exist.  When that history is forgotten, ignored or seems irrelevant to the present, that is when we begin to lose our future.

A credit union can be much more than a financial institution; it is a means of creating and sustaining a “community” that cares about each other.  And whose history will have “its rise, its growth, its weaknesses, its redemption” just as this Bethesda spiritual congregation has experienced in its 300 years.




Speaking Truth to Power

In a recent conversation with a newly chosen CEO on creditunions.com, the following was a comment on what she believed was necessary for her effectiveness:

JV: In a leadership role, it’s crucial to surround yourself with individuals who are comfortable telling you the truth. People naturally want to please the boss and tell them how great they are and might hesitate to disagree or deliver unpleasant information. It’s important to create a safe space where people feel comfortable voicing their opinions and assisting in decision-making.

Everyone has a little bit of an ego. It’s nice to hear that praise, but that can make it too easy to believe everything is going well, so you must actively seek out different perspectives.

Now that I’m in this role, I realize the importance of this kind of transparency. I knew it before, I’ve supervised hundreds of employees and billions of dollars in business, but now that I’m in the CEO role, I can see it even more clearly.

NCUA’s budget and Operating Decisions

Credit unions have both formal and informal ways to present their views to the NCUA board.  One process was the recent 2024-25 budget hearing and subsequent comments submitted.

But will this process make a difference?  Or is it just political theater in which suggestions are requested, but then the Agency proceeds to do what it intended in the first place.

Eleven comment letters were sent to NCUA and posted on its website.  These five short excerpts reflect aspects of “truth” that these commentators believe should be considered at December’s budget approval meeting.

From VCUL:

We urge the agency to provide a more comprehensive and detailed explanation of the growing expenditures for the agency’s Modern Examination & Risk Identification Tool (MERIT). While we appreciate that a platform like MERIT is ever evolving and that its core building blocks will require ongoing maintenance and upgrades, we believe credit unions are rightly justified in demanding greater transparency regarding costs. The agency spent more than $54 million on MERIT’s development, with an additional $3 million budgeted in 2024 and 2025. It is fair to question the return on investment for both credit unions and the agency absent a more detailed explanation of program costs.

The second largest expense in the agency’s proposed 2024-2025 budget is Contracted Services.. . the actual cost for contracted services in 2024 is much higher and is estimated to be $70.1 million, but that cost is offset by the prior year’s unspent funds. If these unspent funds were not available, the total cost of these services would increase by $28.7 million, a 70% increase compared to 2023, an amount which is reflected in the proposed 2025 budget.

From OCUL:

The NCUA’s operating budget in 2010 was $201 million as compared to $382.1 million in this proposed operating budget. While the proposed 2024 operating budget is an 11% increase compared to 2023, it adds up to an overall 90% budget increase within the last fourteen years, far exceeding inflation rates over the same period. These year-over-year increases reveal an alarming pattern; a large and ongoing increase in credit union funding for ever-expanding NCUA spending.   

OCUL is concerned with the NCUA’s strategic choice to invest credit union funds for further staff expansion. . . the NCUA Board reported a mid-year surplus of $3.5 million that was subsequently used to hire additional staff; specifically, the NCUA sought to hire two (2) new Credit Union Resource Expansion (CURE) positions and four (4) new cybersecurity positions, with a projected cost of $1.6 million. Not only is the NCUA Board requesting to hire 28 positions, including 11 entirely new positions, and 13 additional consumer compliance specialists, which is an increase in examination time for consumer financial protection reviews equivalent to 11 examiners, this Budget now has to account for positions in 2023 that were hired with a budget surplus.

From ICUL:

Illinois state-chartered credit unions are subject to the Illinois Community Reinvestment Act (IL CRA) which will add a significant compliance burden and associated costs, in addition to significant examination fees. Credit unions are the original consumer advocates and already do the work to ensure its members, regardless of financial condition, have access to financial products and services at a fair price. The NCUA’s desire to add complexity to its existing consumer compliance examination is unnecessary, especially considering Illinois credit unions and many across the country are already facing additional scrutiny by its primary state regulator.

From CUNA:

The value credit unions deliver is disproportionately obvious among those who really need help. . . Today, the nation’s credit unions remain mission-focused: promoting financial wellbeing, delivering outstanding value, and providing helpful advice, especially to those of modest means.

The just-released Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances, for example, shows that net worth in the consumer sector rose by a record 34 percent in the three years ending 2022. As a group, bank customer households now reflect mean net worth of $1.3 million and median net worth of $220,000; totals that are respectively 140 percent and 23 percent higher than the comparable measures within credit union member households.


The credit union industry is strong and well-capitalized. As of June 30, 2023, the industry’s net worth ratio was closing in on 11 percent and had risen over 40 basis points from a year prior. CAMELS rated 4 and 5 credit unions represented just 0.3 percent of total industry assets, a figure that is roughly half its pre-pandemic level. Thanks to strong loan growth in 2022 and rising investment yields, credit union net interest margins are up 40 basis points versus a year ago.

Will NCUA Listen and Align?

These are critical issues for Agency review. There were also two important points of context: the member mission of credit unions and the sound state of the industry.

Another observer made these comments about the underlying condition for a more responsive budget:

To change the budget, you must CHANGE the game – change the targets, the challenges must be new and raise the bar for the work.

If a group has no intentions to change the world, restart a fire, or set vision for something new, then there will not be anything new.

To change the budget, you need to inspire–put the spirit of “need better”, “deserve better” and “expect better” to ensure all segments of our industry do better.

To craft a better budget – the key is a willingness to rally the industry to want one, as the foundation for a better future and execution from top to bottom.

Only when NCUA is properly aligned with their audience,  mission and futures will all the players be working for a shared mission.

Is there leadership that will pick up the torch for others to follow-within NCUA or credit unions- on this ever-expanding use of credit union funds?



Fall Colors


Burning Bush

Bethesda Tree

Last taste of summer sunflower

Logan berry

Autumn camellia

Pansies should winter over


Leaves everywhere

European Hornbeam-last to shed

Fall’s endgame



The Thanks in Giving

We give for many reasons and are better for it.

Poet Alberto Ross provides an understanding.

When Giving Is All We Have 

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

One river gives its journey to the next.

A Teacher’s Story



Abundance and Gratitude

The initial Thanksgiving story celebrates abundance.  The timing still coincides with the regular rhythms of bountiful harvests which have filled farmer’s storage elevators to capacity.

Times are good. The American economy grew the fastest of any major country in the third quarter.  Unemployment remains at historical lows and inflation is sinking.  Job openings still exceed available workers.

This harvest holiday combines services of Thanksgiving with opportunities to share  with those in need in our communities.  Locally, families who may participate in an early morning turkey trot race can then go to a food kitchen to serve others  in the afternoon.

It is important for our future together as Americans to see our society from a perspective of abundance, rather than an economy of scarcity.  Even when our consumer driven culture constantly tells  us we need more.

Perspective Matters

Abundance does not mean prosperity is equally or equitably shared.  But without a sense of our own well being, serving others easily becomes secondary.

Recently Callahans Trend Watch presented a 60+ set of data slides with commentary on the state of credit unions as of the third quarter.

The message repeated throughout was that the industry is sound and that trends are normalizing from the exaggerated levels due to COVID.

However not all listeners had the same interpretation.  The headline in one credit union report about the call was Callahan Shows Sharp Drop in Q3 Earnings for Credit Unions.   This news story of the one hour briefing included multiple use of the words down, fell or fell sharply, far below and lower.  The overall tone was one of angst:

Credit union’s loan balances grew. . . but the growth rate was down. . . One way credit unions have coped with tighter liquidity is through borrowing, which has tripled in the past two years. It still accounts for a small portion of assets, but that portion is growing.

This was  the opposite interpretation the presenters gave.  Here are some of the headlines from the data slides:

The loan to share ratio is returning to prepandemic highs

Credit union market share is growing in key areas

Share draft account penetration climbs steadily

Quarterly loan originations are on a par with previous levels

Repricing drives record increasing total revenue

Capital ratios improve from slower asset growth

Operational efficiency improves. . . etc.

“Never Enough”

There is a belief created by America’s market driven, consumer led economy that one can never have enough.  Consumerism in its extreme forms becomes an addiction where spending becomes a way to cope with all of life’s shortcomings.

It unfortunately  appears to be the logic of NCUA as it prepares its budgets for its role with credit unions.  In the NCUSIF board  update dialogue last week, the fact that the actual losses are less than $1.0 million, fund reserves at a level of four to five times the last five years actual total losses, made no difference.   Board members observed the CAMELS trends are negative and Black Swan events could be just around the corner.

The NCUA’s budget for the next two years shows increases of double digit spending.  It is driven by the belief that there are never enough resources even with a declining number of charters.  Spending, like consumerism, becomes an addiction not a response to reality.

A Story of Gratitude

How does one respond in a society whose marketplace messages are constant efforts to make one dissatisfied with their current situation, whether personal or with an organization’s future outcomes?

In February 1982 my family and I moved to Bethesda, MD from Illinois to serve at NCUA alongside Bucky Sebastian and Ed Callahan.

At that time one of Bethesda’s local residents was called the “bag lady.”  She walked pushing her shopping cart filled with plastic grocery bags, cardboard and  personal possessions throughout the downtown area.

When the weather was cold, raining or she just need to stay indoors for a night, she would somehow find a way into a church, right next to her downtown journeys.

Our family could walk to this local Bethesda Presbyterian church, where I sang in the choir on Sundays.  The bag lady’s frequent overnight visits were a topic of conversation about the church’s security.  The questions was, how did she always find another way to get in?  Weren’t we locking all the doors?

One Sunday morning as I came early for choir rehearsal, the minister was in the sanctuary placing the offering plates on the alter for the service.  I noticed as he put the top plate to one side of the cross he took something out and put it in his suit coat pocket.  I asked. “Oh did somebody forget to take the offering?”

I will never forget his response:  “No, that’s just the bag lady.  Every time she stays here she puts something in the offering plate. She has left hairpins, political campaign pins and even clothing buttons.”

This lady had little to none of the world’s possessions. However she still had one of the greatest gifts anyone can ever receive: gratitude.

When we celebrate the varied and numerous  blessings which we all enjoy, may we experience the gratefulness this person knew and shared.