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Give thanks to the generous spirit within us

ALS Infographic

UPDATED Nov. 24, 2022: The following opinion was published at Thanksgiving 2021 and republished this year. The story about Sue and Jeff Thompson has touched Arlington deeply. Read an earlier report here >>  As well as a later one >> So has the opinion column about the unexpected passing of Jim Swan. Read it here >> 

Tears turn to hope, as the heart of our community swelled with generosity.

As of Tuesday, Nov. 23, the couple's needs have drawn $64,715. That's more than $53,000 sent since Oct. 22, when YourArlington published the story. Ann Seymour organize the fund-raiser on Oct. 10.

As of Nov. 23, the effort to support the Swan family, organized by Annie Clarke-Lauer on Nov. 9, has received $68,197.

These responses are clear testimony to the bountifulness of Arlington residents and neighbors as well as to the power of a local-news website spreading the word.

Antidote to broader issues?

In this holiday season, we give thanks to all who have risen to the challenge to help those in need.

The desire to give springs from a place within us that may be an antidote to broader national contagions. Enveloping us are Covid-19, the tide of distrust in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election and racial reckonings following the death of George Floyd.

Shut away and masked up since March 2020, we yearn to break free. To do so, some resist science and deny proven health measures. Some seek stricter voting laws. Some take up arms at the U.S. Capitol, in Wisconsin, in Georgia.

These strong public reactions provide a divisive national context that asks: What is happening to our democracy?

The question haunts this year's Thanksgiving.

Retain perspective

As we celebrate with those we love during the holidays, let's retain some perspective: If we love our country the way we love Arlington, let us find ways to move forward.

The U.S. government and economy are imperfect: The continuing search for freedom underlying the soul of the United States is rooted in capitalism, which urges innovation and also aims to limit government control of business.

You see these broad effects at work in the nation and in Arlington. You see them even in the campaigns to support the Thompsons and the Swan family.

GoFundMe, the online fund-raiser, supports both campaigns. Such modern, grass-roots funding expresses the freedom of capitalism: You give if you want to, and are able.

But the initial burst of funding, with increasing goals, cannot result in enough to cover long-term costs.

In the case of the Thompsons, consider this 2018 report titled "ALS Managed Care Considerations"about the expenses involved in managing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The progressive neurodegenerative ill is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The report says: "In a case study that followed a single patient’s direct costs over the 10-year disease duration period, total accumulated costs were $1,821,245."

Estimates for the total cost to an ALS patient include home care, prescriptions, hospitalizations, ventilators and medical equipment. While insurance covers some of these costs, families have to cope with enormous out-of-pocket expenses. Often, patients with ALS lose health insurance as they can no longer work.

Need larger vision

YourArlington's publisher Bob Sprague praises the generosity of a caring public. He also asks that we take a step back: As a society, we have to look beyond GoFundMe to support our health-care needs.

Our capitalist-flung safety net is frayed. In our democracy, we need a larger vision about how to support those in need. Perhaps first, though, we need to make sure democracy survives.

The giving nature of our residents feeling empathy for the pain of others points the way. 

This opinion column was published Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, and updated Nov. 23. It was republished Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022.

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