Rescues are fine topics for fiction. You can pit heroes against villains, or against the vagaries of nature, or even against their own less heroic natures, and save their victims. While the old damsel-in-distress plot is overworked, it’s ever popular. I personally prefer turning the tables so that women (damsels doesn’t seem like the right term here) do the rescuing, especially when the characters involved turn out to rescue each other in different ways. But in fiction, all the rescued and rescuers are contrivances, creations, under the control (more or less) of the author.
In the all-too-real world, there are so many needs for rescue that I feel overcome, useless, drowning in a sea of troubles that I can do little or nothing about. Right now I get over a hundred requests a day in email for contributions to organizations political, charitable, and environmental, and of course any actual contribution leads to more and more requests, and gets me on more and more lists. The political organizations, especially, seem to be proliferating so wildly and duplicating each other’s messages that I get to wondering whether some of them are jumping on the bandwagon to make profits for themselves. Environmental groups seem somewhat more sensible, each with a slightly different focus from the others, such as wildlife or national parks or sustainable energy sources, although there’s still some repetition. The charities have proliferated, too, in response to world events that leave millions of people in desperate need of rescue.
So what can an individual with very moderate resources do? I join some local marches, but those are preaching to the choir around here. I contribute what little money I can, prioritizing a few carefully vetted political organizations on the assumption that replacing our current government, which is doing its best (or worst) to erase what slow advances had been made in environmental and civil rights matters, is the most important and urgent thing to accomplish. Without that, everything else will get even worse, and some things are going to get worse no matter what, so we need a government that can at least handle those crises better than he chaotic mess we have now. But the desperate needs of charities, some of them responding to crises our own government has helped to cause, can’t be ignored, so I try to help a few, without being able to do much on that front, either.
I’m currently in the last phase of settling the estate of my father, who died last March at the age of 99. It’s a moderate estate from the sale of his house, not yet eaten up by the cost of the care he needed in his last year or so, to be shared with my two brothers. Both of them have agreed that I can use a small portion of that to contribute to charities that our father favored--I still get mail addressed to him from the many causes he supported in a small way. He leaned toward things like Save the Children and Care, and medical research and some Native American causes. I’m still debating how to distribute what isn’t a large amount at all, but I know he’d like me to send some to the church my family attended (a very progressive, diversified one even when I was a kid,) and to the small-town library where my mother was head librarian for nineteen years.
The last two don’t qualify as rescues, since neither of them is in any danger, but I do consider contributions to charities and some medical research to be rescue attempts, and these days the political ones as well could be seen as attempts, however feeble, to rescue all of us from the “clear and present danger” that threatens us and our future. I’ll keep on donating to those I favor, even though the small amounts I can give won’t make any difference.
I’m generally pretty practical and rational, but once in a while I toy with an illusion that the more people there are supporting a cause, even in very small ways, the more others will pitch in, too, which makes every effort all the more valuable. Sometimes we need illusions, once in a while. But I’m sure of one thing: if we don’t work to rescue ourselves, we won’t be rescued.
[Writing several hours later]
I’m in a more mellow mood now, a pleasant post-feast, replete kind of mood. Our family worked together, as always, to produce Thanksgiving dinner, ate and talked and joked and commiserated together, enjoying the companionship that comes with all being pretty much of the same mindset. No political or social arguments. We’re all on the same set of pages. That in itself is something to be grateful for. We all share a sorrow, too, that for the first time my father wasn’t with us, and never will be again. That’s the normal way life goes. But being together, especially with my bright, lovely thirteen-year-old granddaughter who should have a great future ahead of her, gives me even more determination to do whatever I can toward rescuing her, and all of us.