Although blogging about our experiences over the summer is a mandatory component of the Columbus Foundation Fellows program, reading the blogs of the other fellows technically is not. However, I suspect that all of us have happily done so anyway. I find it both fascinating and encouraging to hear about the adventures of my colleagues at their respective institutions. I am proud to count myself among the 11 bright young professionals undertaking important and diverse work in the Columbus community.
While anyone can see that our individual jobs are quite different, I can’t help but trace similarities in the missions behind our work. For example, out of the 11 fellows this summer, 6 of us are working with organizations the deal directly with issues caused by disadvantages regarding physical health. This realization made me recall a powerful quote from one of my favorite authors:
“It occurred to me that there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well.”
This quote is not from a distinguished health professional or a prominent social activist; it’s from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. That’s right! The quintessential novel of American decadence, glamour, and wealth actually has something pretty interesting to say about social disparities. Go figure.
Fitzgerald’s words remind us that it is often not simply laziness, stupidity, or poor luck that keeps a person from thriving; it’s navigating life in a body that is unwell. Of course, instruments of oppression such as limited access to medical care and insufficient education on personal health causes most of these problems in the first place, but the poor health that inevitably follows sinks people further into disadvantage and hopelessness.
That fact that over half of the summer fellows work with organizations that address health problems in the community tells us 2 things: (1.) we identify good health as a universal and crucial right, yet (2.) a significant percent of our community does not enjoy that basic right.
There will always be different and often contending opinions regarding if, when, and how society should provide assistance to those who are struggling, but we are getting to a point where the arguing is distracting attention away from the initial issues. The right to good health seems to be something we can all agree on, but debating and tearing down the ideas of others on how to make that right accessible to more people is wasting time or community clearly doesn’t have. We have identified this problem together, and now we need to collaborate, not debate, to figure out how to solve it together.