I recently heard a very intriguing story on Freakonomics about organ donation. It was interesting to me for a variety of reasons, but one in particular stuck out. This economist designed an algorithm that somehow pairs people who need organ transplants, so that whereas our nation used to only have around six or fewer a year, we now have 600. But you have to have a selfless person willing to set off the transplant train.
Listening to the sad stories of people who have contracted the measles virus (and the potential epidemic that could be even here in Oklahoma) brought more evidence to mind of our universal connection. This surrounds the concept of herd immunity. Herd immunity happens when lots of people in an area get vaccinated, and they reduce sickness for everyone around them even those who did not get the vaccine! Getting that vaccine protects total strangers! Another selfless act.
These examples and many others I’ve noticed of late led me to this discussion, trying diligently to get people to understand that we are indeed all connected. Look at our recent weather. Farmers are not able to put crops in the ground due to the flooding, which means the price of foods like soybean and corn will likely go up. We can’t solve that just yet, but we can all make steps to reduce our impact on the environment so that the warming oceans don’t continue to cause more violent rainstorms.
Or think about people in jail. There are absolutely people who need to be in jail, so I’m not advocating that the doors be thrown open. But the idea that having the highest per capita rate of incarceration has no effect on our state’s economy, health and political system is short-sighted at best and dangerous at worst. Surely there are ways we can get some people out of jail, back in a job and back with their children. It IS affecting us all. Some just refuse to see it.
Of course it brings me to public education. When you don’t provide an adequate education to all students regardless of ZIP code, our entire community suffers. We will be feeling the effects of underfunding our public education system for decades — fewer people qualified to take on the jobs of the future, more people ending up in jail, financial strain on the state budget for rising costs in health care and on and on and on.
Why do people continue to espouse the lie of a self-made person? Yes, we have personal responsibility, but we also have civic responsibility. If for no other reason than it will help your grandchildren if you take pains to do selfless acts, then I hope we all will. Otherwise, I fear for our nation’s future.