Ignorance Isn’t Bliss

February 26, 2013 at 3:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The Missus recently met with a woman (I’ll call her Gertie) to discuss a variety of topics. Gertie is a young, wealthy, career-minded woman with her eyes set on attaining positions of power and influence. She is a bright woman, but like all of us she has her share of knowledge gaps. Consider this conversation:

Gertie: Why did you get involved with foster care?
The Missus: These kids and their families need help. I feel like I’ve been called to support them.
Gertie: That’s nice. I’m glad we don’t have foster kids here in Whoville.
The Missus: What?
Gertie: Whoville is a wealthy community. There’s no poverty here so there aren’t any kids in foster care.

The Missus is more polite than I so she didn’t pursue the matter further. I wouldn’t have been able to let the woman’s ignorance go unchecked. She was blind to at least two facts. First, there most certainly is poverty in Whoville (name changed). In fact, the poverty rate in Whoville is about 50% higher than in the state as a whole! Not to mention the fact that The Missus saw homeless people panhandling on the streets while Gertie drove her around town. Second, there are children in foster care in Whoville, just as there are in every community of reasonable size all across America. A quick Googling confirms it, not that I had any doubts.

So what’s going on here? Is Gertie a fool? Not at all. What she is, simply put, is ignorant. She’s ignorant of the community around her even while she’s intimately familiar with complex topics in her area of expertise. She is quite literally incapable of “seeing” things like the foster care system. Maybe it’s because it’s not immediately relevant to her. Maybe Whoville tries to sweep its problems under the rug. Maybe Gertie deliberately refuses to come to terms with the truth. I don’t know her well enough to say.

Enough picking on Gertie. The truth is that we are all guilty of ignorance about our community even as we spend our lives immersed in it. That’s not inherently bad. After all, we can only focus on so many things at once. One can hardly be faulted for not understanding the ins and outs of every problem facing the residents of a city like Lincoln. Nevertheless, we oughtn’t be willfully ignorant. Don’t deny yourself the responsibility of learning about your community when the opportunity arises. Better yet, push yourself to find opportunities to explore your own areas of ignorance so that you may deal with them appropriately.

As The Missus told me about Gertie I first got angry that anybody could be so blind to the state of her own surroundings. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how guilty we all are of the very same thing. Certainly I am. I plan to do something about it. Lincolnites face extreme hardships. Poverty. Disability. Illness. Abuse. Neglect. Our community has internationally-renowned businesses, home-grown success stories, and fantastic centers of learning. Lincoln features beautiful, feature-filled parks and playgrounds, and dilapidated, worn-out, embarrassing parks and playgrounds. We have, in other words, a little bit of everything. I can’t know everything about Lincoln, of course, and I don’t plan to try. What I can do is stretch myself a little bit. Go exploring, so to speak. There’s so much about Lincoln I haven’t uncovered. Addressing the problem doesn’t even require much of a lifestyle change. It’s choosing a new restaurant rather than an old stand-by; taking a different route home; volunteering for a new organization; attending a free concert; more carefully following the evening news.

My question for you is this: What are your areas of ignorance about Lincoln, this place in which you live? And what can you do about that?

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The Comments

Fletch February 26, 2013 at 5:00pm

On the positive side, I am sure Whoville has plenty of roast beast.

Fletch February 26, 2013 at 5:05pm

I was pretty shocked to hear about kids in the community that don’t get square meals at home, thus the Backpack Program. We’ve become pretty big fans of the program. My church sponsors a whole school and makes sure no kid from that school goes home hungry on the weekend.

I think if someone from the Food Bank had come to our church and just talked about adults going hungry in Lincoln, I would have listened, politely nodded, and moved on. However, as a parent, the thought of kids not getting food really was hard to take.

An adult can make decisions about eating or not eating (or maybe spending small amounts of money on things other than food). A kid, not so much. A kid shouldn’t suffer, especially at a time when they are growing and need more nourishment (perhaps) than an adult would.

The numbers are pretty hard to take, even in Lincoln.

Mr. Wilson February 26, 2013 at 9:09pm

The Backpack Program is a great example of what I’m talking about. Many Lincolnites—perhaps even most—have heard of the program, but I bet only a small percentage have really thought about the reasons behind the program’s existence. It’s almost unfathomable to a comfortable, middle class guy like me. And yet the underlying problems are very real and they exist right now.

Incidentally, one of the reasons I get so pissed off about “unnecessary” (in my mind) snow days is that for a huge chunk of Lincoln’s children, school is by far the safest, warmest, most wholesome environment they have access to. Denying that to them because of a little inconvenience during the morning commute is absurd.

George February 28, 2013 at 8:36pm

My 11 year old daughter just participated in a fund raiser to raise money for the backpack program.  It was called “Bowls for Backpacks”.  She painted a bowl (and even spend time after to school to make sure it was perfect) and donated the bowl to be sold to the public.  Each bowl then in turn sold for $15 (and you got soup and music).  We talked at great lengths on why this was important to the community and I was so very proud of her for wanting to participate.  I was blown away by how many people were there to purchase not just one bowl, but 4 or 6 bowls!

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