I keep hearing about an epidemic spreading across our land.
The opioid epidemic – painkiller and heroin addiction – has become a huge struggle for Americans. I read about it online, in newspapers (including our local daily paper) and magazines, and see it on TV news. Lots of people are talking about it, shaking their heads, and wondering what to do.
Nowhere seems to be free of this affliction and it’s affecting my own little hometown. This reality reminds me of a Simon and Garfunkel song from the 1970’s written by Paul Simon entitled My Little Town.
It’s a depressing sort of song about growing up in a little town that’s, at the very least, unpleasant. One without any hope or imagination. And the one singing the song can’t wait to escape to a better life because there’s “nothing but the dead and dying back in my little town.”
I wonder how many of our little towns, which used to be so lively and beneficial places to live, raise a family, enjoy peace and experience very little crime, now resemble dead and dying places (figuratively and literally) because of this epidemic that seems to be plaguing even the tiniest of towns.
As a young adult, I left my own little hometown to attend college, embark on my career, and then marry my husband and I never returned to reside here again until my mid 40’s. Our reasons for moving back to my hometown area were many, but one was to escape the madness and busyness of the suburbs, which is why we found property in a rural area outside of my little town.
This place where I grew up has changed since my childhood, much like other small towns I suspect. Back then, we didn’t worry about locking our doors, let alone home invasions.
We knew all our neighbors very well and knew we could count on them should we need help instead of living among strangers whose comings and goings make one suspect drug dealing activity. I can remember knowing who lived in every house lined up along our country road and the roads that intersected it.
Children played outside without fear of being abducted or becoming victims of human trafficking. Adults didn’t worry about being assaulted or having their homes or cars burglarized. Public schools were safe places to send your kids.
Maybe it was just a simpler time. But call me Pollyanna, I think we could get back to times like that.
If you’ve never read the children’s book, Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter, or seen the 1960 Disney movie starring Hayley Mills, let me enlighten you.
The main character in this children’s classic, written back in the early 1900’s, is an orphan who is sent to live with a wealthy aunt, not a warm-fuzzy person. Matter of fact, auntie is downright cold and stern. No matter what little Pollyanna faces though, she continues to have a positive attitude and exude optimism.
Her philosophy for life proves contagious as her new hometown starts being transformed into a pleasant little burg because of Pollyanna. She plays a “glad game” and by her sunny disposition and example, the townspeople, including her crotchety aunt, begin to change for the better.
What does all of this have to do with the opioid epidemic gripping and destroying so many or any addiction be it drugs, alcohol, or whatever? I’m certainly no expert about addiction, although I truly believe one of the aspects that leads a person into any kind of addiction is a lack of hope.
Far too many of us walk around with gaping holes in our hearts. Despair takes over. We suffer from depression, anxiety, and our surroundings or circumstances don’t help one bit. A deficit of hope causes more despondency and it becomes a vicious circle.
Families are falling apart at the seams. Unemployment and other social ills offer little optimism for the future. Who wouldn’t want an escape from that? And that pill, or that injection, or that drink, or that addiction that has taken over your life seems to provide just what you need to feel better.
But of course, it truly doesn’t. Addiction just creates a downward spiral of more hopelessness.
As a person of faith, my hope, my relief, my way of coping with the ills of this world is having a personal relationship with my Savior.
I know not everyone sees that as an answer. God gives us free will to choose to do so or not. But I also know God can heal the broken-hearted, lift up the down-trodden, deliver victims into victory, and He can break the chains of despair and addiction.
Not everyone is ready to embrace that solution of turning to God. I realize that because even though I have Pollyanna tendencies, I am also a realist.
But I can’t help but think that maybe we just need to start with humble acts of kindness. Maybe we just need more of us to be Pollyanna to those who are hurting, those who are living lives of despair. Maybe we just need to reach out with a hand of help and a heart of hope and try to make this world or your own little town a better place.
It sounds too simple, doesn’t it? But maybe it’s worth a try.
“The influence of a beautiful, helpful, hopeful character is contagious. … People radiate what is in their minds and in their hearts.” ~ Eleanor Porter (from Pollyanna)