THINKing Outside the Box

America is a charitable nation and Americans some of the most generous on earth, but the future is going to test those qualities like never before. There will be no late-night faces of emaciated children living in flyblown sewers that pass as homes. We will see the faces our neighbors, friends and families who have lost their homes, their retirements, their jobs and their faith in our system. Whether they were too unwise or too na’ve to understand what their mortgages could do, or they thought they could speculate just one more time, they’re all going to need help. What are we to do? The federal government isn’t going to help. It doesn’t have the resources. No, this one is going to be on us, and the sooner those of us that come through unscathed realize it was probably dumb luck, and not because we were smarter, or better, or imbued with some preordained right to affluence, the sooner we can begin rebuilding our sense of community.

Orange County has some of the wealthiest enclaves in the country, and many dollars go to support the activities these well-heeled denizens believe in. Sadly, many of those dollars are prestige charity and have very little to do with improvement in the lives of ordinary people. Then too, there are those that channel their money to causes such as homeless or domestic violence shelters, but it very often accompanied by a patronizing disdain for the recipients. In other words, “you can have the check; just don’t ask me to hobnob with the inmates.” And finally, there are the simply greedy sons of bachelors that wouldn’t help a dying grandmother.

What I’m suggesting is that we get away from is always equating charity with financial outlay. Giving of something you have in abundance is easy. Rolling up your sleeves and working alongside someone who isn’t quite like you may not be, but it is the actions of the heart, rather than strokes of a pen that this country needs.

We need to rekindle our sense of community as a nation. Our vainglorious pursuit of money has isolated us from the very neighbors that used to watch out for us as we watched out for them. How does one do this from inside a gated community?

Our college is a great place to start redeveloping the kinds of simple decencies that are going to bring us through the hard years to come. I suggest, in fact I challenge, all in the academic community to come together and develop that actually get out of the classroom and “into the in street” in the name of improving human welfare. It should be a requirement that many courses include some type of public service as part of the curriculum. There is no reason why the school cannot partner with volunteer service organizations on many fronts. There is no reason why our student government cannot sponsor something as simple as a pumpkin carving contest, where the funds from the purchased pumpkins go to help a food bank. There is no reason why students, individually or collectively cannot participate at a grass roots level to ease some of the misfortune that is inevitably coming.

The list of creative things we can do could go on and on. Let’s keep writing the list, but let’s act on the items we put down.