I grew up at the tail end of a time when people wanted to change the world. There was talk that “the revolution” was coming, that it was going to be a different world, and a different country (because we, of course, symbolized the best a country could be). By the end of it, some became “Jesus Freaks”, some got stoned, but I think most people just gave up and got into themselves. Somewhere in all of this, we got the message that it was just too *complicated* to fix everything, so we stopped trying. We focused on small things we could handle, rather than big things we couldn’t. There is an awful lot to be said for that — being loving parents who bring up loving children is a marvelous gift to the world is a great example of the “small” (as in individual) thing that most of us strive for. I have the utmost appreciation for people who do that. As a therapist, I see the results of people who don’t take parenting seriously and it’s horrible.
But all that said, we’re at a serious loss for world-changers these days. I voted for Obama because I thought he called us to be just that again. While I like the man a great deal and *he’s* doing a lot of new things, I haven’t heard anybody heed the call to massive change — to justice for more than themselves. Justice, fairness, community, rights for all people (plus the natural world)– citizenship’s responsibilities — STILL need to be addressed and I don’t know of anyone that’s doing it.
Today, my clients dealt with legal issues, housing issues, financial issues, the equal value of women and men, abuse, access to medical care, neighborhoods filled with gangs that claim to be “just like family”, except that they kill people, sell drugs, don’t see women as equal, and could give a rat’s ass about the world beyond their block. And I only dealt with four people!
Problems these days are really BIG and they require people with really BIG visions. Springfield, Mass, where I work has only one “old fashioned social service agency” where people can deal with housing, and poverty and drugs and violence. It’s called the Open Pantry/Open Door. I’m sure at one time it was related to churches and it may still be, but it’s a remnant of the old days of big ideas and community organizing and making the world a better place.
In my car, on the way home from work, I dream about a place where women can stop being beaten up, where drugs stop being used, where somebody takes my clients to court appointments and DCYF appointments, where communities are built that include anybody who wants to make a difference — even people with lousy pasts who still have so much to give to the world, leaving them to just take up space on the planet. I dream of making a big difference in the world and lots of people coming to my funeral when I die because my life meant something to each of them. Am I the only one who thinks like this? It sure feels like it on days like today.
I have felt community and the “big idea” a few times: at Deering, a camp in New Hampshire. in a few Youth Groups that took on a life of their own. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of it at my church, with its pastors’ visions. But these glimpses are few and far between and I miss them being a part of the air that I breathe daily. My people — my clients, now — need them desperately. They need big solutions which yield basic results like food, clothing, shelter, medical care and a place of REAL belonging in the world, not that crap that gangs sell as a second-best. Does anybody else want that? Where are they? Have you seen them? I haven’t — not in a long time.