Can We Talk?

| by Shannon Williams

Modern politics do not appeal to me. I try to stay abreast of current issues. I vote. I care about the future of our country, but I don’t spend a lot of time following American politics. 

Over the past week, politics have been front and center in our collective dialogue as the Senate Health Care Bill was released and now stands for a vote. I have read articles, listened to stories on NPR, and seen a barrage of tweets on both sides of this equation. 

I don’t pretend to have an answer to the health care challenge. I feel certain that the upcoming vote will only fuel the debate—not end it. What I have observed however is that most of the people I have talked to about this debate have a very personal health care story—a child with a chronic illness; a spouse with a pre-existing condition; a sibling who cannot afford insurance without a subsidy. The challenges are real and the emotions are high. 

As uncomfortable as the dialogue is right now, I wish we had more of it. I wish that we as a nation had the same passionate dialogue about 1 in 5 children under 18 living in poverty in our country—many at risk of going hungry on any given day. I wish we talked about the fact that only a third of American eighth graders are proficient in reading and math. I wish we discussed the unimaginable reality that 1 in 30 American children are homeless. In fact, I wish we talked about the correlation between all of these things—health, food security, affordable housing, and educational success. And, I wish that we as a collective cared as much about the whole as we do about ourselves. 

Many who are passionate about the health care debate are so because it impacts them directly—either by the access to care or by the cost or both. Of course, there are some who are truly looking out for the greater good and cannot imagine 22 million currently insured Americans losing their coverage, but I would argue that most came to that opinion because of their own personal connection to the health care debate. 

The issues of food security, quality affordable housing and educational proficiency are not personal for the majority of Americans, and yet the percentage of children who are struggling with these challenges are growing. The fact that 20% of American children live in poverty is unthinkable, unacceptable, unjust. And yet, it is a reality, and we don’t talk much about it. 

I know first-hand that there are hard-working non-profit organizations in nearly every community across our country working on these issues and I applaud them. I am grateful for them. I only wish these very real and growing issues could captivate our national dialogue in the same way that the health care debate has. I wish these issues were more personal for us as a collective. No, I don’t wish these challenges on every American, but I do wish we had more empathy, more exposure to the issues, and more sense of collective responsibility to address them. 

I personally subscribe to a theory of abundance. I believe we as Americans have the intelligence, the financial resources, and the technology to tackle these issues and make progress toward changing them—eradicating them. I don’t see our challenges as a resource problem. I see it as an attitude problem. I fear we have lost our collective ability to fight for someone beyond ourselves. I hope I am wrong. 

If you support an organization that focuses on one of these issues at a local or national level, thank you. Please continue to give your time, talent, and financial resources—encourage your friends to join you, take your children with you, write a blog about the impact that it makes in the lives of others. The only way to raise the level of conversation is to engage in the conversation. Pass it on!

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