Virtually everyone I know is obsessed with the dumpster fire that is our current federal government. It’s certainly understandable; we have a President whose manifest deficiencies become more bizarre by the day, and a Cabinet filled with ideologues who are incompetent or racist or both. And if you want to know a lot about our “Christian” vice-President, this (very amusing but really totally accurate) site is worth visiting.
Watching what is happening in the nation’s capital is obviously important, but so is the ongoing, on-the-ground work of local governments and nonprofit organizations. In fact, those nonprofit organizations are more important than ever; in a country where the federal apparatus is stuck in neutral (if not reverse), and few of the elected officials in Washington seem to give a rat’s ass about the common good, the steady presence of these voluntary and charitable organizations is often a life preserver.
What made me think about all this was an email announcing an event to support Hope Academy, a “recovery high school” that is attached to and affiliated with Fairbanks Hospital.
I had visited Fairbanks Hospital and Hope Academy a few years ago, at the invitation of a good friend who was then the President/CEO of Fairbanks, and I was duly impressed. As local folks know, Fairbanks Hospital addresses substance abuse in adults, and it has been a compassionate and supportive lifeline for people hooked on alcohol or drugs. At the time of my first visit, my friend and her board had just established Hope Academy.
A couple of months ago, on a return visit, I talked at length with teachers and students, and was once again struck by the importance of what Hope Academy does.
The individual stories really got to me: “Jeremy” was using and selling hard drugs, blacking out and failing tests in his high school. He was in jail at 17. After he was released, he found Hope Academy and he now has a college degree, a good job, and a wife and child. “Ben,” another graduate, has turned his life around and is working on a dual master’s degree at Purdue. There were many other stories, equally inspiring.
Medical science confirms that addiction is a disease, not a failure of will power or evidence of moral failure. Like other diseases, it can be cured–or at least sent into remission–if pproached with appropriate understanding, support and treatment.
That costs money, of course, and it’s no surprise that Medicare and Medicaid together account for only 27% of Fairbanks’ operating budget. Given what’s going on in Washington, Fairbanks’ staff aren’t expecting that to improve any time soon. Like so many other nonprofits, they depend heavily on volunteers and donors–on “the kindness of strangers.”
I’ve dwelled a bit on this particular nonprofit, not just because I recently visited, but because Fairbanks and Hope Academy are examples of the thousands of voluntary organizations supported by people of good will–people who have seen gaping holes in America’s social safety net and moved to fill them. (It’s like the tag line in that old TV series, “The Naked City”–“There are a million stories in the Naked City; this has been one of them.”)
America has so many truly admirable people providing so many important services out of the goodness of their hearts–working in our communities to make life better for their neighbors, helping people who need that help, giving of their time and treasure to make the worlds of those less fortunate just a little less desolate and forbidding.
Seeing compassion and generosity in action raises the question: why aren’t we sending those sorts of people to Washington?