Our society’s downhill ride should be getting scarier for me.
Social Security is spending more than it takes in. Stressful unemployment can affect anyone. Violent extremists can hurt any of us. A giant trade deficit might lead to a trade war that can shatter everyone’s well-being.
Scary because there are no united forces pushing back with answers. No consensus is forming around new policies and the need to make reasonable sacrifices. So the public and its officials do what frightened people naturally do: limit their concern to just protecting their own interest groups.
Except I stay optimistic. Reason: My daily work brings me into contact with people involved in finding answers to overcome major problems, who will compromise to achieve these programs, and know they have to personally give up benefits to achieve progress. If the work of these people became far better known, it would connect with a large part of the population that also knows naturally that unity, not self-protection, is the way to stop our downhill slide.
I see, feel and touch this optimism because I am director of a center, sponsored by a university’s graduate schools of business and social service, that trains present and future nonprofit leaders. About ten percent of each training program involves participants who have limited income, are personally responsible for the $500 tuition, and give up three consecutive Saturdays. Why? They want to establish programs to help create a better tomorrow, and to do this now are ready to fight the battle against today’s Great Recession and its effects.
One student is a paralyzed man who severed his spinal column in an accident. He is creating an organization to find affordable housing for young people, in wheelchairs, who have limited income and often are placed in nursing homes—costing $15,000 a month because wheelchair accessible living can’t be found for them in regular housing.
Another program attendee, a woman school volunteer, shocked by the violence among high school boys and their low graduation rate, wants to create a charity to give inner-city boys a program every Saturday to help them improve themselves and avoid violence.
Seeing how the death of her mother attracted 500 people to the funeral because of admiration for her mother’s work as a nurse, one class member is raising money to create a nonprofit to send poor youth to nursing schools.
Walking by many homeless each day, a participant is trying to develop a project to recruit individual counselors for the homeless.
After seeing the lack of health care for the elderly, one of the students wants to develop a nonprofit to increase the number of health care graduates who work with older persons.
A woman whose poor, ill mother got lost in the health care system wants to initiate a program that will provide advocates for the elderly.
A couple’s trip to Cambodia showed them that the country has a limited future without better education, and they hope to develop schools there.
All of their stories involve the need to fight against odds, cooperate, and be willing to personally sacrifice to achieve the goal of helping others.
It’s incumbent on universities and colleges to hold unbiased, fact-gathering sessions around the issues affecting our nation’s future, and at these gatherings provide a platform for participants in the various social service programs to tell their stories.
Then young adults would hopefully become more involved with political groups and associations and encourage these groups to accept the concept of struggle, sacrifice and cooperation, which economists and other researchers keep saying the nation needs to confront the recession.
The people who will inherit the future need to become a resource today and begin to rally support for the unity necessary to push back against our downhill slide.