I have in recent weeks read multiple warnings that we are becoming more stratified in our world. On the one hand we have those who have the comfort in life to pursue their interests and pleasures in good health, and on the other we have those whose economic and social circumstances put any sort of healthy or comfortable life at risk.
In fact, to be honest, I do know people who take actual pride in the notion of enjoying their own comforts and deliberately shutting out inconvenient truths. In particular, I know people who are proud to stay away from the bad news that millions of people lack basic necessities, much less the privileges the rest of us have by the good luck of where we were born, who our parents were, and the opportunities for education or mentoring that we have been given.
What gives me great content, though, is to be part of the now vast family of people across the globe who don’t believe in enclosing ourselves in our own comforts but rather feel a moral urgency to use our hearts, energy, and gifts to tackle the problems that make other people’s lives less rosy than our own.
This family of what Melinda Gates calls “impatient optimists” crosses generations. It includes young activists raising questions aloud without solutions yet. It includes collaborations over the internet to pool successful models for addressing problems and then cobbling together new models to pilot across the globe, in modern terms sometimes called hacking the space.
There are some groups ranging from scholars to the-person-on-the-street at the discussion stage, not satisfied to complain smuggly about some other in the form of a generalized group or institution at fault but floating actual ideas past others for reactions about viability.
And there are collaborations of creative people across fields, including the arts, science, and technology, to get normal people involved very concretely in seeing what part they can play in innovating in their spaces so that more people can partake of a satisfying quality of life.
Each of us can choose our own place on the continuum from focusing entirely on ourselves, our ambitions, and our comforts to working tirelessly for those left out in the cold in the modern world. It is a great comfort to me to see increasing numbers of people rejecting the choice of insulating themselves in their castles of comfort and rather finding meaning in helping those who do not- and through no fault of their own- share such privileges.