The thing about being a news junkie is that there’s always something catching your ear.
This seems like a good thing. Tuning into the current events that transpire around us is a great way to feel part of the flow, an engaged cog in the workings of the universe.
As long as you don’t overthink stuff too much.
Take Detroit, for instance. The city outside of which I grew up, a place that will always feel like home to me, continues to struggle. This week’s launch of bankruptcy wranglings in court shows that public pension woes are by no means the exclusive province of Illinois. Even Naperville suffers from them, although city officials say their recently adopted aggressive paydown plan means the current shortfall in the public safety pension funds will be gone 15 years from now. In contrast, the Motor City is seeing a push to cut the benefits now going out to retirees. This would hit a whole lot of 80-somethings — many of whom worked diligently for a whole lot of years to keep from having to move in with their kids right about now — mighty hard. It sort of takes the concept of fixed income to a whole new and rather ugly level.
It hurts to see what has happened to my hometown, not so long ago the motor vehicle capital of the world, where urban blight has become a chronic condition. There are occasional glimmers of hope; in my heart I know Detroit will come back in its own time. But today the picture is bleak.
Adding insult to injury was our beloved Tigers’ fall from contention for the American League pennant last weekend. Even worse, it left those of us who also love the Cubs no choice but to support the Boston Red Slobs.
Some days it feels as though there is no justice in this life.
And how about those Danes? Naperville has scored quite well on an array of best-places rankings pulled together over the past few years, but news stories recently reported that Denmark has the happiest citizens on the planet, attributing the pervasive bliss to an assortment of factors. For one thing, they put a great deal of value on parents, allocating a full 52 weeks of parental leave per family — and eight out of 10 moms return to their previous level of employment, after taking 18 weeks off following each birth.
We may, however, be catching up with Denmark, which gave women the vote a century ago, in the area of gender equality. Yes, the website has some well-publicized flaws, but the truth is that health care reform is granting more than 47 million women guaranteed access to preventive services like wellness visits, cancer screenings, some forms of contraception, smoking cessation support, breastfeeding help, domestic violence counseling and immunizations, to name just a few fundamentals that shouldn’t be reserved solely for women with money.
Danes also seem happiest in part because they ride bikes a lot more than we do. Half of Copenhagen’s citizens climb onto the two-wheeler to get to work or school. This is a boon for collective fitness, endorphin-fueled well-being and air quality.
Denmark also has 0.3 firearm murders per 100,000 people annually, and 12 guns for every 100 people. Here in the U.S., the firearms count is more than 94 per 100 residents, and the gun murder rate is 12 times higher. I have to think being less fearful for one’s own life tends to make a person happier.
Closer to home, there was news this week of a new and awesome initiative that’s helping a lot of people who never expected to need help putting food on the table. The brainchild of Naperville siblings Sasha and Vaughn Lindstrom, the food collection drive dubbed Yes We CAN accumulated 4 1/2 tons of canned goods that were delivered last weekend to the Loaves & Fishes Community Pantry, DuPage PADS and Hesed House.
Jody Bender, the pantry’s community engagement director, said they were delighted by the support.
“The entire Lindstrom family, especially young Sasha and Vaughn, created a simple, effective opportunity to engage children and families throughout our area in the joy of giving. ... Thanks to Yes, We CAN, Loaves & Fishes families can look forward to warm bowls of soup as the weather cools,” Jody said in an email.
See? The news isn’t always bad. Quirky and parochial, sometimes. Good sometimes. And yes, sometimes bad. But always ear-catching.