Dallas, TX –
Some days it's hard to get through the Sunday paper because of the accumulated weight of all the bad news. Spending about an hour last week with the Dallas Morning News and the New York Times, I counted more than 15 stories using the word "crisis."
The housing crisis. The infrastructure crisis. The credit crisis. The immigration crisis. The health care crisis. The energy crisis. And of course the ongoing crises of Afghanistan and Darfur and the Palestinian Territory and other places that may as well be marked "Permanent Crisis Zone" on the map.
Along with the crisis stories are the Give Us Back Our Great Country stories. They are everywhere, have been for months now. As the Bush Administration creeps toward its end, so much thwarted energy seems to be gathering, so many people saying that once Bush nails that "Gone to Texas" sign on the Oval Office door, a time of great renewal will begin.
Here's columnist Tom Friedman in the New York Times, saying "Millions of Americans are dying to be enlisted to fix education, enlisted to research renewable energy, enlisted to repair our infrastructure, enlisted to help others. They want our country to matter again."
That's wonderful. And true, I hope. But why are we waiting to "be enlisted"? People with needs are crying out all around us right now. Do we need the next President of the United States to e-mail us a list of phone numbers?
If we want to get started renewing our country, we don't have to wait for Inauguration Day. Here are five quick suggestions:
1. Call a church or synagogue and ask if they have an outreach program for the hungry. Tell them you will bring canned food or sandwiches.
2. Call your local school district. Tell them you'd love to read to kids who need extra help with literacy.
3. Call Habitat for Humanity. Tell them you'll pound nails next weekend as they build a house for a poor family.
4. Call the local VA hospital. Volunteer to help wounded veterans start their lives again.
5. Call some co-workers. See if you can set up a car pool to save gas and cut down emissions.
If you don't like any of these ideas, there's a website called volunteermatch.org. I put in my zip code and found more than 300 volunteer opportunities within 20 miles of my home.
I'm all for inspiration and hope, but for all we know the next President's inspirational honeymoon will last about six weeks before he is engulfed in a new crisis. If we're waiting for some Miracle Man to galvanize us, what happens if that Miracle Man runs out of inspiration, or gets bogged down in some Washington scandal?
Do we then say, "Sorry, Mr. Wounded Vet. Sorry, Mrs. Elderly Person. I wanted to help, but I'm just not inspired anymore?"
While I was putting these thoughts together, I happened to hear an old song by Bruce Springsteen, "Thunder Road," in which a woman is "praying in vain for a savior to rise from these streets."
Sometimes I wonder if that's what we're doing, stacking so much hope on the shoulders of so few. Can they bear the weight? Is it fair to ask for a savior to rise from these streets and single-handedly breathe new life into the American Dream? Do you think that savior might need some help?
Chris Tucker is a Dallas-based writer and literary consultant.
If you have opinions or rebuttals about this commentary, call (214) 740-9338 or email us.