Wade into issues, make decisions followed with actions
This morning I got up to some alarming news on my cell phone. One article chronicled the conditions in the Syrian refugee camp in northern Jordan that holds 80,000 Syrian refugees. Another article spoke of the ‘world’s largest humanitarian crisis in 70 years,’ the drought and hunger in Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan where ‘nearly 16 million people in the three countries are at risk of dying within months.’ All this in the face of the recently proposed budget cuts sent to Congress by the White House.
The United States has traditionally been the largest donor to foreign aid programs of the United Nations. In 2016, it gave more than $2 billion to the U.N.’s World Food Program.
President Donald Trump’s proposed foreign aid cuts threaten to pull the United States from its historic role as the world’s top emergency donor.
The Associated Press reports also noted that ‘The White House is suggesting immediate budget cuts of $18 billion from programs like medical research, infrastructure and community development grants to help pay for the border wall’ to be built between Mexico and the United States. Reading a proposed budget document can give citizens a clear picture of the priorities of a country or organization. It can lay out a picture in numbers that describes in practical terms abstract philosophies and commitments.
There will certainly be many discussions and disagreements during the debates in Congress and among the public in the next few weeks. We don’t all think alike or agree upon actions to take. So much of planning for the future is speculation based on findings discovered in past experiences. Even the most trained and experienced people wrestle with these issues. We all attempt to reflect the best in ourselves and struggle with how to use resources to achieve the optimum results.
At breakfast, my husband, Don, with alarm in his voice, said, ‘What can we do to help in all of this?’ Where do we put our resources of time, money, care and energy?
My mind immediately recalled a crisis that came to my attention when I was a young bride in 1957. The students in the country of Hungary had just organized and carried out a resistance march protesting the burning of their textbooks by the communist government. I was in college then and actively aware of the plight of these freedom-seeking fellow students. At the same time, we were receiving wedding gifts from friends. We had been given two large silver ‘well and tree’ platters that, to me, in my ‘save the world mindset,’ looked like unnecessary expenditures. I told my then new husband Frank that I was going to take them back to the store and send the money to students in Hungary to buy new textbooks. He never let me forget this instance. Often, when I would weigh the merits of spending money on a luxury against human needs of others, he would remind me of that books-or-platter decision.
In one of those amazing coincidences in life, years later I became a friend with the leader of that Hungarian student revolt. As an old man, he recounted his capture, sentencing to death and escape to the United States. He taught economics at Butler University in Indianapolis for years and, when he retired, went back to Hungary. I interviewed him for a program I was producing for public television. One of the statements he made during that interview was that ‘we have all the resources in this world we needed to feed all of the people. What we lacked is the will to do it.’
His devoted wife was standing to the side and immediately jumped in to debate him on the issue. He kept telling her we were on TV and she should not be speaking now. It was a funny interaction, and we all ended up laughing. But it has always reminded me of the interconnectedness of all people on this small planet and how, even amongst the best of friends, we often see the world differently.
As Don and I discussed the dilemma facing our nation today, we pondered our roles as individuals, part of a nation and world citizens. We acknowledged that we certainly had information at our disposal and the freedom to explore it. We know our tiny actions will not change the world, but we know when we join others we can become more effective. And we know there are many options and points of view that are viable. Plus, to be true to ourselves, we must wade into the issues, make decisions and follow up with actions.
There are a lot of resources available to us in our quest to find facts and weigh opinions. It’s not fair to only consider ideas espoused by those with whom you have always found agreement. Good debaters study opposing arguments to understand the situation better. We need to do the most creative and smartest thinking about the challenges we face today.
Even in America we can’t have it all. Read the proposed budget bill sent to Congress and decide if it takes us where you want our country to be in the future.