Those of us who work with children on a daily basis and who work with people who are less fortunate than ourselves get to see problems on an up close and personal level. All of us have problems. I think we can all agree on that. And all of us are children when you really think about it. We are all someone’s child aren’t we? Aren’t we always? Don’t you feel that child inside you when you think about your parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles no matter how old you are?
Teachers and nurses, social workers and psychologists and therapists and police officers and firemen and anyone who comes in contact with people in need or distress meet that child everyday, whether or not that person is an actual child or a grown-up who is having a particularly traumatic day. Life is about children and when you see the child in need on a daily basis you can’t help but feel the need to help. You can’t help but experience the enormity of the need that is out there and you realize that it is on this level, the personal level, where things need to get done, where help and medicine and love need to be dispensed. This is where the effort needs to be redoubled and applied and expanded.
The further one moves away from this personal level, from being in the trenches, if I may use a familiar expression, the more difficult it is to comprehend what needs to get done, the harder it is to discern the problem at all. As we move from the realm of the worker who toils on the social level through to the realms of the administrators and politicians and members of society who live further and further away from these children in need, the conditions in those trenches seem trivial and remote and inconsequential…and from that distance, that safe distance, it’s so easy to say, “That’s not my problem. That’s their problem. What am I supposed to do? Let them take care of themselves over there, the way I take care of myself over here.” But it’s always those distant generals who are the ones empowered with the responsibility and who wield the resources necessary to make the decisions and find the solutions for those ever more distant sufferers. And because these policy setters and solution makers are so far removed from the blemished, acned situations of real life, they don’t see the blemishes or feel the urgencies or sense the simple humanity of the problems many people face. And as a result their compassion waxes and wanes, if it is ever moved to grow at all. And so the solutions begin to lose clarity and vanish as their field of vision grows ever more distant and the problems become ever more confusing and confounding until Poof! The problem is so far away that it has seemingly disappeared.
Distance destroys compassion. That’s why problems, especially where children are concerned, must be solved by the people most closely associated with the children. In the trenches one can see the solutions quite clearly. JUST GET ME OUT OF HERE! That’s what those of us who work on the social level see everyday. They see the need to get people to safety before anything else. Once out of the trench anything is better.
But is our society ready for this? Is this a lesson that we, the people, can finally acknowledge needs to be learned? It’s a simple lesson and here it is…
The trench is poverty and we’ve been waging war on it for 50 years yet still the trench grows and swallows up more and more of us each year and ironically our response as a society continues to be, “Money’s not the answer to poverty!” “Don’t give poor people money. Don’t spread the wealth and fill in those trenches. Don’t create a larger social network with greater social programs that will draw us all closer to one another and hence closer to the problems that we can then focus on together and solve. No! Run for the hills! Cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans and let them build ever larger mountains of money for us, the ever growing more unfortunate masses, to climb and clamber upon and fight over, until we have put enough distance between us and ourselves, our compassionate hearts and our greedy souls, our one nation and we the people, to notice that a society, just like the single human face, can only see itself in its own reflection. Life is all about being up close and personal. We all have to live up close and personal if we are ever going to see what needs to be done. Because if you want to see what’s in that mirror you need to move closer not farther away, don’t you?
So please, the first thing you need to do to help the public schools in our country is to move closer to them and closer to your children not further away. We need to work together to admit our failings and to solve our problems. America is no longer a melting pot of nationalities. When waves of immigrants came here from places like Ireland and Italy and Poland and other mostly European countries, they all had white faces and could blend in and melt into a nice white mayonnaise or Elmer’s glue but today in America for the first time in its history there is no clear cut majority. The white Europeans who first sailed the ocean blue to find this land for me and you, (remember singing that?) no longer account for over 50% of our country’s population. We are now more like a spicy stew or gazpacho with chunks of ethnic meats and savory multi-colored vegetables.
We’ve changed for sure but we need to remember that looks don’t make diversity, ideas do. And America has always been a nation of diversity and its founding ideas were supposed to be based on equality, to be governed by a republic as one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
In public schools all over America we, the students, administrators and teachers, pledge every day to be in this thing together, one nation under god, and the only way we’ll be able to do it is if everyone outside of our schools pledges along with us! that’s the only way that we’ll be able to do it. But we will never be able to do it under a vengeful and vindictive god where some of us help and some of us don’t… perhaps though, under an empathic, loving and compassionate one, where we all pitch in together, we just might…but will we be able to teach our children and with them learn and reinforce the lesson of compassion? Once upon a time learning this lesson wasn’t a problem…so why should it be any more of a problem now?