Column: We have the capacity. Do we have the will?

by Jan Lewis

It was a dark time in our nation: The stock market was out of control, banks were closing, unemployment was rampant and thousands of hard-working families were slipping into the ever-widening crack of poverty.

Our country’s great experiment of living under a government “of the people, by the people, for the people” seemed to be failing. Into this darkness, a strong voice called out to the American people, rallying them to overcome.

“In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere must and shall choose a path of social justice; the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.” That rally cry came from Franklin Delano Roosevelt during a campaign address on Oct. 2, 1932. In the years that followed, America rose up and battled back from the brink of despair.

Sure, there were government work programs and a world war that sparked the economy, but what really defined that great generation was its willingness to sacrifice for a greater good, a common good. My mother tells stories of the things they gave up, of the neighbors they helped and the neighbors who helped them. A family in need didn’t have to wait for government assistance, because a helping hand was just around the corner or down the block or in the house next door.

Today, Americans are once again living through dark times; families are falling into the deep cavern of poverty. But the voices we hear rarely call us to justice, to faith, to hope or to love. The voices we hear are strident, discordant, and polarizing. Once again, it seems that our “great experiment” is in danger of failing. Once again, we simply can’t wait on our government to help.

At Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, our vision is that we will one day again live in communities where neighbors are helping neighbors. While we advocate for the voiceless on the Capitol steps, we are also calling each of you to step up to the plate and become your brother’s keeper. While unemployment hovers over 9 percent, that means 90 percent of us still have jobs. We have the capacity to shelter the homeless, feed the hungry and nurture the sick. We simply have to the make the choice to put others before ourselves.

On Feb. 12, 1943, Roosevelt made the following comments in an address: “We have faith that future generations will know that here, in the middle of the 20th century, there came a time when men of good will found a way to unite, and produce, and fight to destroy the forces of ignorance, and intolerance and slavery and war.”

What will future generations say about us?

Leave a Reply