Working on the World
The news told of the horrors of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, but I kept thinking about the brave work of first responders, volunteers and hospital personnel in the wake of such a nightmare.
One of the hard things about working in journalism, even the softer version of it practiced by a lifestyle magazine, is that you are immersed in the news — for better or worse — 24/7/365. Editors are constantly listening and looking for nearby stories that are about to break and seeking the local angle on news events, however grand or grim, all over the planet — and there’s been a lot of grim news of late.
One of the blessings of being so tied in to world and neighborhood events is that we get to know some of the people who are there to anticipate trouble and to help when things get bad. As a result, I can tell you that there are some truly great people working on ways to prevent problems and to fix things when they go wrong.
Problems inspire solutions, tragedy inspires heroism, grief and heartbreak inspire sympathy and healing care. It’s just that too often the slow mend or the thoughtful correction is nowhere nearly as spectacular or “newsworthy” as the events or misdeeds they seek to cure. Major crimes or disasters are usually loud public events, but the remedies are so often conducted quietly, behind the scenes.
I’d always heard about the good deeds that police conduct in communities, but it wasn’t until some of my co-workers and I volunteered for Building on Hope (see last month’s “Editor’s Note”) alongside police, building contractors and neighbors to upgrade the facilities at the Michael Briggs youth athletic center that I realized how hard they work (on their own time), how much they care or how important their coaching and counseling is in the lives of young people in Manchester’s poorer neighborhoods.
Our story on teen homelessness in the January 2017 issue would have been all about a hopeless situation if the people who guided our writer and photographer had not been street-savvy team members from Child and Family Services. They knew the kids by name and had been building relationships and providing assistance to some of them for years. (See “Feedback” for a relevant follow-up story on this.)
Historically speaking, New Hampshire has done its share of work on the world’s big troubles. The 1904 Treaty of Portsmouth (mediated by President Theodore Roosevelt) brought an end to a protracted war between the empires of Japan and Russia. The International Monetary Fund, which facilitates trade and borrowing between nations, came out of a conference at Bretton Woods in 1944.
Both these acts were complicated and still controversial, but working on the world is rarely a tidy process in one direction.
Sometimes the remedy offered works not “against” the problem but in spite of it. That was the case when Sarah Josepha Hale of Newport wrote to President Abraham Lincoln to propose that he institute a national day of Thanksgiving to provide a healing balm in the midst of the Civil War. Lincoln agreed, and the holiday has flourished as one of the true common bonds for our nation. In Lincoln’s order, he declared the day as an opportunity to “fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes.”
It seems we’re still waiting for those divine purposes to be fulfilled, but meanwhile there’s a lot that we mortals can do and are doing. And for that we should be grateful.