Whatever your political alignment, religious beliefs, race, creed, or demographic, most Americans today feel like “it“ is broken or in the process of breaking. A Pew survey found that 76% of us have a low confidence in the wisdom of the American people when it comes to making political decisions, yet 78% of Americans say that knowledgeable voters are very important to the US.
Further, Pew reports 68% of people say made up news from social media and bitterly partisan news outlets have a major impact on our institutions and, even more alarming, each other.
These statistics are really interesting considering the fact that from the primetime hours of 8:00 PM – 11:00 PM, Fox, CNN, and MSNBC have a combined 5 million viewers nightly – in just those three hours.
Those numbers don’t even account for all the other 21 viewing hours in the day, social media content, radio shows, and all the other media outlets in our country. When one considers the constant inflow of information and the research that shows that although we stay glued to that flow, we don’t really trust it or those that listen to a different viewpoint, it isn’t hard to understand why we feel “it” is broken.
Even more telling, congressional approval ratings are currently at 19%, the presidential approval rating is at 39%, and for the first time in our history, even the Supreme Court’s approval rating is at only 40%.
We don’t approve and we don’t trust, yet we inundate ourselves with the content that perpetuates the distrust and disapproval.
I believe there is a better path that sidesteps our divisions. That path is normal people. Normal people like Anne Mahlum. Anne a struggling young adult dealing with addiction in her family and a personal identity crisis. Her “cheap therapy” was running. She ran by this one homeless shelter hundreds of times and told me “frankly, I did not give a crap about those guys.”
But in spite of being bulimic at the time and still wrestling with her own demons, it came to Anne one day that she should start a running club with the homeless. Although the shelter’s director told her that homeless people don’t run, 9 guys showed up the first day.
Today, the nonprofit she founded Back on My Feet is in 15 cities across the country and has helped over 7,500 homeless Americans get jobs and independent housing. If you can wake up and run at 6 am, you have the discipline and perseverance to do almost anything.
Anne and an army of 150,000 runners, volunteers and donors, whose political beliefs are irrelevant, have helped solve the problem of homelessness more than a myriad of infinitely better- funded government programs ever have.
I call this solution, “An Army of Normal Folks”.
It came from noticing how there’s streets all over our country that are so filled with crime, despair, disenfranchisement, and hopelessness where people pass by and think it’s the last place on earth that they would want their car to break down, but also how they hope someone does something about areas like these one day, as if the sentiment matters. But it doesn’t and it changes nothing.
My suggestion is that we all tilt the rear-view mirror about 15 degrees and say ‘I, ought to do something about it.’
My premise is that our country’s problems will never be solved by all of these fancy people in nice suits talking big words on CNN and Fox, or by the bitterly divided partisans that we clearly don’t trust or approve of, but by An Army of Normal Folks just deciding ‘hey, I can help.’
That’s all I did coaching football in a neighborhood where young men are 3 times more likely to be dead or in jail than to have a job or be in college by their 21st birthday. Yet, 31 out of the 32 seniors in my final two seasons went to college.
For some of us it might be coaching or running with the homeless, or you might be a kid mowing lawns for 50 people in need as 4,000 kids have done with Raising Men and Women Lawn Service.
Whatever you feel called to, imagine if each of us just does what we can, how different our country could be?
Imagine what an Army of Normal Folks could do working together, learning together, learning about one another, and finding common ground in the effort to better or fellow man and the communities in which we live.