Tucson is a caring, tight knit community with people that come together in times of crisis like what happened on Jan. 8, 2011, in times requiring compassion, like our community’s caring response to Central American refugees.
We take pride in our blessed community. Rightly so, since we see all the good that takes place here every day. People of all faiths and backgrounds work together to make a difference, and our community thrives in many ways.
Yet there is much more we need to address as a community. Issues that are very complex and do not admit of easy solutions. Yet they need our attention and action.
Education: Our children underperform academically. Too many students drop out of high school. We struggle to find the best teachers, or enough teachers and schools — public and charter — struggle with inadequate funding. What would happen if we all made education in our public, charter and private schools a priority where no child is left behind, where adequate resources were made available? Our kids must matter most.
Poverty: How many of our children are seriously undernourished? How many families lack adequate resources to purchase food, or even to travel to food distribution centers in our community? How many live hand to mouth? What would happen if we all came together to provide job training and pathways out of poverty? Many in our community provide immediate and critical assistance, but we need to help people find and build bridges and steps out of poverty.
Homelessness: So many people wander around aimlessly in our parks and neighborhoods. Many of our homeless clearly are mentally ill and in need of care, without the ability to think through the hurdles of finding and obtaining help. Many of our homeless are able to “live” on the street or in desert washes only because of Tucson’s accommodating climate; still these people need places to maintain hygiene, to receive food and to receive health and other services. Despite heroic efforts to address this issue, real solutions and funding remain elusive. Clearly more needs to be done.
Opiate Addiction: People of all walks of life in our community find themselves deprived of their dignity and health, weighed down by addictions that began often with the need for prescription drugs, but that then eroded into an endless cycle of painkillers and other drugs that cause a horrible downward cycle into despair, poverty and death. How do we stem this trend of addiction among people in all walks of life? What can we all do together to help?
I have witnessed what can happen when religious, civic, political, business, social service and educational leaders including all spheres of our community come together to address a community concern. It makes a difference. Progress happens.
These issues are not easily addressed. But as St. Teresa of Kolkata once said, “The whole effort is like a drop in the ocean. But if you don’t put your drop in, the ocean remains one drop less.”
When we bring people together, poco a poco, we can make an impact on these thorny issues. Less happens when we seek to resolve issues in isolation.
We have seen what happens when Tucsonans come together, pull in the same direction. As we begin a new year, let us make these issues of utmost concern to all of us and explore ways together to make an impact on them.
With all of us working together Tucson can become an even more wonderful place to live and in which to raise a family.