Another world is not only possible,
she is on her way.
On a quiet day, if you listen carefully,
you can hear her breathing.

- Arundhati Roy -

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

My dream is that more people will finally feel empowered to act on their own dreams, to act as their own best selves in shaping any of the the worlds they live in. A long-time activist in my tiny community, I've found that an attitude of hope--grounded with some degree of common sense--will take you a long way toward your goal. This is no time to be an Eeyore. Dream little, dream big, but take that dream into the real world for a test drive too.

One of my dreams for health care is working in my own community right now. Given our current and future economic circumstances, I wish more and more communities would start something like our Friends of Friends Medical Support Fund. It began more than a decade ago when I asked 75 acquaintances if they'd give me $100 a year to help people in our community with uncovered medical expenses. That first year--while I was just piloting the program on a small scale--$7,500 came in, and 11 people were helped with doctor, hospital, prescription, and medical-travel expenses. It's a very simple, low-red-tape program that doesn't even have an office, but last year Friends of Friends helped more than 200 people with more than $75,000 in medical bills. It wasn't a grandiose dream, to be sure, but it has provided a measure of emotional and financial relief to more than a thousand people over the years now.

Something like Friends of Friends can be adapted to the needs of your own community, no matter how you define it--your town, your neighborhood, your block, your congregation, your affinity group. Neighbors helping neighbors: It's what America has always been about.

Lynn W, Whidbey Island WA