Change the World: An Antidote for Hopelessness

Small changes can make a big difference.

Posted Oct 03, 2020

Reflecting on the past few months, so much needs to be done to heal our society, and yet we wonder if we can ever surmount the types of tragedies that confront us: the COVID-19 epidemic, the historical truth about racial marginalization and violence, the widening wealth gap, climate change, and the opioid crisis, to name a few salient examples. These complex social problems have continually been ignored, and now have become even more deep-rooted and daunting.

Understandably, you may want to give up, to throw up your arms in despair, and seek refuge by not thinking about these seemingly unsolvable problems. But denial can have its own devastating consequences for your soul, as well as for our larger communities. We are never safe or secure; we can never truly heal into the humans we pridefully claim to be, when such problems are left unresolved.

Far too many human beings are only marginally surviving, and this tragically includes those forced into poverty, those with mental health challenges, those who are isolated and alone, and those who are left without a place to live. Even the hundreds of thousands exiting mass incarceration each year, our returning citizens, are unconscionably denied the most basic human rights, such as a safe place to live and an empowering job. These individuals—who are often victims of a system designed to single them out for incarceration, while those with power, influence, and finance—conveniently avoid justice and overdue prison sentences. We need to find new, innovative ways to reach out to these most vulnerable citizens and restore their right to live, participate in society, and add value as we should all, each and every one of us, be adding value to the world in meaningful ways that support the good of all.

So what can be done? With cities and states claiming rising debt and reduced funding, are there life-preserving resources available for those who so desperately need them and deserve the right to these resources as human beings?

Some solutions are bubbling up with innovative ideas right here within our own communities, and we have to pause our self-interest and take the time to notice. A fresh, new way of thinking is the solution. Thousands of people are now building communities in every town, city, and state in our country. Their unheralded work has focused on the most vulnerable individuals, those victimized by economic hierarchy and criminalized systems, marginalized from affordable housing, and discriminated against due to psychiatric co-morbidities and substance use issues.

Let’s look at one experiment in democracy occurring throughout our country. There are literally thousands of recovery homes that reach over a quarter of a million individuals with substance use issues every year. Some of these housing networks have decades of experience in complete self-governance. Within these residences, there is hope, peer mentoring, and a sense of community.

Similar to the large networks of recovery homes for restorative living, a solution may reside in providing opportunities for vulnerable populations to be integral in collaborative decision-making about their re-establishment and new investment opportunities into society. The practice of saviorism—where entitled and/or well-meaning individuals assume the authority to make decisions about marginalized peoples’ life choices—has been the accepted mode of “dealing with” vulnerable populations for centuries.

Is it possible that some solutions to our societal problems may come from the most vulnerable, the hardest to reach, and those that suffer the most from our society? Seems like a radical idea, to empower the most vulnerable and marginalized to direct the strategies for their own healing. Yet, there is a spark, there is a piece of genius in every person, and our unfinished task is to find ways to unleash this inspired avalanche of hope, healing, accountability, and empowerment.

Our challenge now is to invite ways to harness the healing qualities of these alternative opportunities. A powerful way to utilize promising real-world learning experiences to tackle the overwhelming uncertainty before us.