(Crossposted from LinkedIn)
This wasn't the post I intended to write today.
I thought about creating a video to express what I'm thinking and feeling after reading a news story this morning, but I haven't been able to stop crying long enough to speak clearly. I am writing this through tears of anger and frustration, but also tears of determination, perhaps belligerence, and an overwhelming sense of the fierce urgency of now.
I hope you care enough to take the time to read this.
Please know that I do understand how most people today feel overwhelmed with the constant bombardment of news and information (often negative) and pleas for help swirling around as most of us are doing our best to get through each day. It becomes what I call white noise. I understand the tendency to shut down and turn away, and turn inward, feeling helpless in the face of it all.
Yet I'm asking you to not turn away.
Earlier this morning I saw a Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch article entitled: "Despondent couple found dead in their Bellefontaine home"
Neighbors said they seldom noticed the couple in the little house at 225 W. High Ave. Yet the two were desperately reaching out for help. In a listing on giveforward.com this year, Jodi Speidel wrote that both she and her husband, Randy, had chronic illnesses and had been living without gas heat all winter and without water for a week. With $33 in savings, she said, they were eating one meal a day and didn’t have scraps left for their two cats.
“I have turned in every direction possible and don’t know what else to do,” she wrote. “If you can help, we will be forever grateful and will even pay you back once we get back on our feet.”
No one responded on that website or a similar post on gofundme.com.
On Tuesday, the Speidels’ landlord found a pink note on the front door of the one-bedroom house warning visitors about carbon monoxide inside.
The reason I'm so heartbroken about Jodi and Randy Speidel's story is because I know that, while they likely felt alone in their struggle (which is heartbreaking in and of itself), they were not alone in what they were experiencing. I know all too well that there are thousands upon thousands of people, in the United States alone, who feel the same sense of isolation, despair and hopelessness, for countless reasons. It's an epidemic.
Many of these same people have found their way onto my path over the last eight years through my work at Wishadoo; people of all ages, backgrounds, belief systems, in every corner of the United States and even around the world. (Please note that Wishadoo is currently on hold; more on that later.)
The number of people who feel they cannot afford to exist in this world is growing.
It wasn't that long ago that I felt much the same. Too many find themselves contemplating the brutal reality that their loved ones may have a better chance at sheer survival if they were to leave -- and leave loved ones with life insurance funds. In our predatory capitalistic society – a society in which money IS our value system -- money is at the root of nearly every decision made throughout each day.
It's not hard for such thoughts of despair to creep in...thoughts about proceeds from our deaths may be more helpful to our loved ones than our struggles to keep a roof over our heads, if we've been able to maintain those payments, that is. (I know, I know…the mere mention of suicide brings up so many deep-seated feelings and opinions, and I'm aware suicide usually negates life insurance payouts, but if you're focused on that tidbit, you're missing the point here.)
I have persevered because I know I have worth and value in this world; more importantly, I know everyone else does as well. I'm here to remind others of this simple guiding truth:
There are thousands upon thousands of people feeling this despair, in a country where wealth and income inequality are staggering. Quite frankly, it's obscene and shameful. Such despair is not only unnecessary and avoidable, it's unconscionable.
I contend that most of our systems are FUBAR. We are increasingly criminalizing poverty and inequality, while simultaneously decreasing employment opportunities and destroying social safety nets. Quality of life is quantified by the numbers in one's bank account.
I empathize with the Speidels and the untold number of others in despair but, more importantly, I care. I recently wrote about how and why I have come to firmly believe that, first and foremost, we must CARE: care about, in order to care for, and ultimately care with.
No one should feel isolated and alone, not unless they consciously choose such a life. This is precisely why I created Wishadoo! (a Community Good Social Network) eight years ago. As I wrote in my story of how Wishadoo! was born:
I believe there is an underlying truth that remains unsaid as we turn away and struggle on our own each day:
We intentionally create walls. We don't trust, we fear humiliation, we fear being taken advantage of, we fear judgment, we fear rejection. It feels as though it is easier to just "get by" on our own. There are so many walls between us.
We can break down these oppressive, destructive walls – individually and systemically -- if we simply make the choice to care.
We can drill down later on the specifics which lead to tragic choices such as The Speidels' -- the healthcare system, the economic system, the social systems and the personal stories involved – but, for now, I'm asking you to simply care about their story.
I'll end this by asking you to do this: Imagine.
Imagine a community, similar to Facebook, where people are there to share and to listen; to share joyful, celebratory aspects of their lives as well as struggles; where there is a better chance of connecting and not feeling alone and hopeless. Or helpless. An inclusive community which encourages genuine, deeper connections and respectful dialogue. A community which is a catalyst for outreach and provides meaningful support to create and cultivate these connections, both online and off.
A community which can provide hope and support, perhaps even empowerment and meaning, all of which so many desperately need.
A community where people truly care.
Thank you for caring.