You know that trick of eyesight: how you can see a moon crater as concave or as convex, but not both at the same time? It keeps flipping between. There was a story in this paper recently that produced for me something of the same effect.
Back in the 80s and early 90s, Ben Buck, an Orleans electrician, wired two little buildings for us. Through these and a couple of other jobs, he proved a competent, conscientious worker, and nice guy. The kind you want to have working on your project.
Ben was, I guess, in his 30s then. So I was startled to see him, now 61, and his family as the subject of an article in last Sunday’s Cape&Islands section. “Faith community gathers to help Orleans family in need,” read the sub-headline. “ORLEANS—Electrician Ben Buck is the type of person who plowed his neighbor’s driveway without being asked and volunteered for his church while running his own business and raising four children with his wife, Veronica.” I remembered her from phone conversations when I called for Ben.
The gist of the newspaper story is of the kindness of people– neighbors and, some of them, strangers, volunteers from businesses and churches from other towns.
“ Now that the Bucks’ failing health is costing the couple their longtime home, friends new and old are stepping in to help them…..” Ben, we’re told, is on hospice care for prostate cancer; his wife has Huntington’s.
“They really had nowhere to go” said a volunteer. “People have just been so gracious”… said one quoted in the story.
The flip side of this story of good-hearted neighbors is, of course, in that premise in that early sentence: —“now that the Bucks’ failing health is costing the couple their longtime home…”
“You’re kidding”, said my wife, when I read the story out loud to her. “Can that still happen?” –that good people like the Bucks can fall in the cracks —that in our society there still are cracks like that? The mention of $50 million in medical bills and foreclosure suggests that it has something to do with the healthcare and banking parts of our way of life. Sounds like something out of Dickens.
I have no idea of the politics of Ben Buck, of how he sees his own story. His talk—and he was quite a talker—was more of his religion and sobriety than of politics, as I remember. I have no idea if the Bucks themselves feel ripped off that our society and economy have so failed them. That Veronica says she feels “blessed” by the outpouring of support suggests that the family may in fact have a religious perspective on it.
Many will see it differently, I imagine.
Government has such a bad reputation these days as a way of doing business that millions cheer Trump on as he goes about dismantling it as fast as possible. But the problem here surely is not too much government, but too little: failure to guarantee the human rights of healthcare and shelter.
No fake news here. Both stories are true. It is a heart-warming success story of kindhearted neighbors. And at the same time a story of the failure of all us kindhearted people to make our government (“of, by, and for the people”) into an instrument of kindness and looking out for each other—simple Golden Rule stuff– that will make the first story unnecessary. And, not such a small thing: turn people like the Bucks from objects of charity into, simply, citizens of a caring society.
A lot of the direction this country takes from here on depends on which way you see that story of down-on-their-luck people blessed by kindhearted neighbors.