I’ve been thinking a lot about the crisis in Flint. I’ve felt what most of us have—disappointment in our leaders’ skewed priorities, sadness over the struggles this poisoning will cause for families in the city, and anger that a solution will take too long for those who need it. It’s easy to fall into those feelings, to get frustrated and forlorn about it all.
Then today I read an article about 300 union plumbers who spent the weekend in Flint installing water filters for residents for free. This story struck me because these people feel like my people. They’re who I come from. Not just because I was born of the mitten, but because nearly all the men in my life as a child were tradesmen, builders, and mechanics—my dad, my uncles, my almost-uncles. I didn’t know people hired experts to fix their house or car until I was a teenager. I thought your dad just did it. And if he couldn’t do it alone, he’d get a friend to help. I grew up around construction sites, saws roaring and hammers pounding. I learned to wear closed-toed shoes and to be careful where you walk. But most importantly, I learned that when something needs to be done, you do it. You don’t wait to be told it has to happen and you definitely don’t stall until you find out what you’ll get in return.
The politics of this situation run deep. There’s no easy solution to its root or its result. It’s important to elect responsible, selfless officials and to remove ones that create dangerous and harmful circumstances. But sometimes that gets complicated. People get a few too many steps removed and it muddies up the remedy. It’s not complicated to help your neighbor. It’s not complicated to bring forward what you have in a time of need. I’m proud that these unnamed workers are doing what they can, without orders or payment or reward, to help strangers. I’m proud to come from that stock.
I don’t have a joke here. I’m just going to try and sit with that notion for awhile.