"What Kind of Country Do We Want to Be?"
This morning, as I did my weekly dump run, I listened to the car radio to hear Congressman Paul Ryan accept Mitt Romney's invitation to be his running mate. In his acceptance speech, Congressman Ryan asked, what sort of country do we want to be? I think that is the core question, and one that I've been thinking a lot about recently.
A couple weeks ago, I spent a weekend camping out at a folk music festival. I spent several days focusing on beauty and compassion for those around me. I listened to people sing about the struggles of living a meaningful life.
The following week back in Connecticut, after the festival, I learned that two friends had lost their parents. One friend's father died, another friend's mother died. I spent time reflecting on life, death, and listening to music of remembrance. This was music streaming over the computer, a bit different from the Falcon Ridge experience, but with some commonality.
I've written blog posts in the past remembering friends and family that have died, and I thought, "how do I want to be remembered?" I thought about eulogies I've listened to. The eulogies have not been about how much money a person made, how successful they were, or how many businesses they created. They have been about how much compassion the person showed; how much kindness.
At work, in the community garden next to my office, a young mother put up a memorial for her two year old son who recently died of cancer. Her grief is heart wrenching and I wove some of my experiences into a work blog post. Those who can afford to spend $50 million dollars running for U.S. Senate, can also afford the best health care in the world, but for too many of us, quality health care in an inaccessible luxury. Did the young boy that just died get the best health care in the world? Does his mother have access to the best health care as she deals with her grief? Our country, and all of us, have a responsibility to those less fortunate than ourselves. That is the kind of country we should be wanting to be.
At the end of that week, I went to BlogHer in New York City. The Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Nwando Olayiwola, at the health center where I work is a spokesperson for Text4Baby, a wonderful program helping expectant mothers through their pregnancies. It is a simple and inexpensive program bringing better health outcomes. Joining Dr. Nwando was the head of Save the Children and a few other notable speakers. The panel, "The state of the world’s mothers: working together to save & improve lives", was sponsored by Johnson & Johnson. Just as we as a nation have social responsibilities, so do corporations, and it was good to see Johnson & Johnson taking up some of their social responsibility.
This week has been National Health Center Week, and Wednesday was National Healthcare for the Homeless day. Our health center sponsored a screening of "Give Me a Shot of Anything". It is a powerful film about an organization in Boston that provides medical care for the homeless. The movie painted a picture of the homeless; veterans, college graduates struck down by bad luck, people really not that different than you or I. As the old saying goes, there but for the grace of God go I.
At one point in the movie, a homeless man looks at the camera and points at the doctor who has been out on the streets with the homeless. He says, "He cares." Simple. Heartfelt. As I watched this I thought, how many politicians would people say that about with the same sort of conviction. Few, if any, I imagine.
I can understand some of that. I've been busy trying to raise money for my campaign and get signatures to appear on a second line on the ballot. I've been busy filling out questionnaires in an effort to get endorsements. I haven't gotten as much time as I'd like to just be with people, finding out what they need, and if there are ways I can help them.
Now some of my conservative friends may find this objectionable. They may say, we shouldn't be teaching people to rely on others. That, I believe is the fundamental issue. Are we all in this together? Should we be helping one another out, or do we want a dog eat dog world where people are more interested in the size of a person's bank account when they die, than in the good that they have done?
What Kind of Country Do We Want to Be?