A few weeks ago, my family and I visited Valley Forge. While there, we visited the Washington Memorial Chapel.
It's a big church built almost a hundred years ago on the site of the historical park. It had a pretty big pipe organ with ridiculously intricate hand-carved pipes and a whole bunch of patriotic-themed stained glass windows. One set of windows even depicted major events in the life of George Washington. It was pretty cool-looking and the guide there was knowledgeable, friendly, and seemed like a nice guy.
He mentioned that the building was a privately owned Episcopalian chapel for a local congregation, and therefore not the beneficiary of national park funding. He briefly invited us to leave donations in one of the donation boxes for the building's upkeep and preservation.
I didn't donate. Maybe I should have. I'm not really into Episcopalians or chapels, but I do care about history.
What impressed and surprised me, however, was that, as we were on our way out, my mom stuffed a five dollar bill in one of the donation bins. My dad was looking up at the stained glass windows at the time and I'm pretty sure he didn't see it. But as he walked out, I watched him slip what I'm pretty sure was a ten into the same bin.
Either I misunderstood my parents' stance on donations when I was little, or their stance is evolving. I didn't expect them to contribute because the only organization they trusted to distribute funds ethically and usefully is the church. Apparently I misjudged.
I was actually kind of proud of them for donating. It's useful sometimes to keep my post-Mormon ego in check. I may think I'm right and they're wrong, but they're still better people than I am in a lot of ways. They have a lot more money than I do, but there's no reason I couldn't have spared a couple of bucks. Believing in something that's true (or avoiding belief in something that's false) is far less important than being generous and trying to improve the world around you.
Mormon or not, they have me beat there.