This year at Thanksgiving I want to particularly thank God for our people and the heritage that has made our nation great. The catalyst for my thinking was the funeral service last week celebrating the life of a most remarkable woman, Ada M. Betts, of Independence. Her husband and daughters granted me the privilege of speaking a few inadequate words there about her impact on me, and I greatly appreciated that.

We in these United States have been so blessed by our Creator God that it is only too appropriate that we dedicate one day at the end of our harvest time for giving thanks to Him. Other nations with great and diverse natural resources too often cannot even feed themselves, much less export huge quantities of foods and goods to those in need of them. What is our difference?


This year I want to particularly thank God for our people and the heritage that has made our nation great. The catalyst for my thinking was the funeral service last week celebrating the life of a most remarkable woman, Ada M. Betts, of Independence. Her husband and daughters granted me the privilege of speaking a few inadequate words there about her impact on me, and I greatly appreciated that.


I was a sixth grader when she became the choir director at First Baptist Church in 1963. In spite of my continual mischief-making and motor-mouth, Mrs. Betts not only tolerated me but loved me, opening to me a fantastic new world of singing with an enthusiasm that made choir practice a must-not-miss weekly appointment for me for the next six years.


Before churches had special youth ministers, she wore that hat too, and she set high expectations for all of her youngsters. Not only did we learn to sing our parts as well as many adult choirs, but she helped to train us to become ladies and gentlemen. Ninety-five percent of the time she wore her trademark smile, but when she frowned you knew you were in big trouble.


Little did I know what else she had on her plate. She had begun her business life with Southwestern Bell but moved at some point to Sears & Roebuck, where she became a buyer and was recognized as its national employee of the year from Sears’ thousands of associates. I’m not surprised because she brought her personable, enthusiastic efficiency to every aspect of her life. If beginning her career now, she might have risen higher in corporate titles, but she otherwise never needed to be liberated – she was always an influential, positive force with which to be reckoned.


When the Independence Plan for Neighborhood Councils began, the Bettses jumped in with all their energy, and Ada became in 1974, literally, president of Neighborhood No. 9 for life. She served on many other boards and committees for the benefit of our community. Her personal slogan was printed on the funeral program: You do not have to move in order to live in a better neighborhood.


What possesses a person to carry such vitality and self-giving with her for 93 years? Such activism and volunteering is seldom seen in other countries around the globe. Her obituary said simply, Ada lived the best example of Love thy Neighbor as Thyself. It is that spirit of giving and stewardship that has made our communities and nation special and for which I am especially thankful this year.


Almost 200 years ago, the French observer, Alexis de Tocqueville, opined that America is great because it is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great. God, please grant that it never be so and let more of us follow in the steps of Ada Betts.