In this season of gratitude, it is time to “count your blessings,” as my folks used to say. So let’s try this together. I am grateful for enough to eat, unless you are one in eight Americans who struggle with this. I am thankful for a roof over my head, unless you are one of too many homeless. I am grateful for my free public education, unless you are one of the world’s 263 million children and youth who have no chance to go to school. I am thankful for my health and health care, unless you are unable to afford health care, or don’t have access to a local clinic or hospital. I am grateful that my children and grandchildren have lived to their fifth birthday and beyond, unless you or your child is one of the nearly 16,000 who die every day, before reaching your fifth birthday. I am grateful that my wife and daughters survived the childbirth process, unless they were one of the 800 who die every day from complications with pregnancy and childbirth.
Too many people in our country and our world are unable to count up their blessings as easily as some of us. With blessings come responsibilities, as my parents also taught me. We are blessed to live in a democracy where we can speak up for change. Obviously, some people are speaking up, and Congress is listening since there are bills proposed that will change some of the sad realities in our world. For example, House Resolution 466 and Senate Resolution 286 both support the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). The GPE partners with countries to create plans to educate all children. Initially these plans are funded by the countries with help from the GPE, but with the knowledge that these countries will eventually take over the entire cost. In addition to training teachers to create a better quality education, the GPE plans to make sure 25 million more students get to school in the next three years. This plan is contingent on funding, of which the U.S. plays a partner role, depending on other donors to make up the other 90-plus percent of the budget for the GPE. But our contribution is important, because it leverages donations from other donors. These bipartisan resolutions are the current step toward making sure America gives its share. Since education results in a more peaceful world, with new trading partners and healthier citizens, it is called a social vaccine, worthy of supporting.
The Reach Every Mother and Child Act is also a bipartisan piece of legislation that will make America’s efforts more efficient in ending preventable deaths of mothers and children in our world. It nearly passed last year, but was recently re-introduced in the House (H.B. 4022) and the Senate (S.B. 1730) and has an excellent chance to pass this year. And since we are blessed to be able to speak to our representatives in the House and the Senate, we can ask them to pass this important legislation. Our calls, visits and letters can help insure the passage of these two initiatives that make such a difference. At the same time, we can speak out against any legislation that exacerbates income inequality, like the current “tax reform” efforts. We can also use our voices to protect and expand the safety net programs that provide ladders out of poverty, like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. As we work to end the underlying causes of poverty and hunger in our country, we also need to protect programs like SNAP (formerly food stamps) that help working people put food on the table.
Sound like a big responsibility? For democracy to work, citizens must go beyond voting and be involved in communicating with their representatives. I am especially grateful for the opportunity to volunteer with RESULTS (results.org), whose mission is to help citizens to use their voices to do exactly that. In the early ’90s, 40,000 children were dying every day from mostly preventable causes, as highlighted by the Tacoma candlelight vigil for children at Stadium Bowl. Since that time, efforts that passed legislation like those mentioned above have more than cut this tragedy in half. Of course there is still work to do. I would be grateful for your help, your voice speaking out for these life-changing measures to pass. Make a call. Not sure? There is a wonderful Tacoma RESULTS group that will help you learn to do this work. Go to the website or e-mail me and I will help connect you and answer questions. Together we can bring about a world where everyone can be grateful and count these blessings that so many of us were born with.
Willie Dickerson is a former Tacoma resident where he taught school for 16 years (and he still visits family often). Retired now, he is a volunteer with RESULTS (results.org) working to end hunger and the worst aspects of poverty in America and our world. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.