Travel time can be a gift and a challenge – isolated in the cabin of a plane, free from the distractions of home tasks and limited in interruptions by opting out of the internet services. There is an unusual sense of focus accompanying the tray tables, compressed surroundings and squared oval windows. Gazing out into the clouds, mountains, rivers and lakes below, it is often opportunity for contemplation and clarity. Quite literally an elevated experience, life looks different from this angle.
Pondering the vastness of our country and the needs as diverse as the landscape, it can feel formidable to consider taking up the challenge of influencing change on a meaningful scale. Reading American Nations was an eye-opening experience of the varied perspectives of history and retained values of the eleven regions, illustrating the difficulty in meeting the needs or finding agreement among all occupants. Are there any common threads to be found? Is it possible to create situations that serve all without suppressing any?
Moving into the work of the year, these are questions I will hold, investigate, ask and perhaps not answer. There are personal agendas, histories and emotions to consider. There is retribution sought by many. There are debts, grievances and conflicts without clear resolution. Through all of these, the concept I continue to consider is the potential unification behind the concept of health – a word as broad and as simple as we choose to make it.
What is health for you? What is health for your family? What is health for your community? Does it exist if obtained at the expense of others? Is it possible to achieve in an equitable fashion? Can we accept a lesser, though viable, version for ourselves if it means a better option for the collective? On the spectrum of health, where is your no-fly zone?
Considering health policy and my own past experience, I reflect on the opportunity I had to participate in the Wellville campaign in my previous hometown of Muskegon, Michigan. Finding five cities to serve as sponsored communities, test piloting initiatives and obtaining data to create a roadmap, this program serves to pave the path toward wellness in areas most in need of health. From my birds eye view, now living outside the community, it would appear that much has improved by serving the health of those most in need of support. New housing developments, hospital innovation, invigorated tourism industry are side effects of ground level health initiatives, improving the experience of the greater community by focusing on the areas of highest need.
Human instinct is for self-preservation. Serving own immediate needs is a biological predisposition and can be a totally appropriate response in certain situations. In our modern world and with the challenges we currently face, we must move beyond this myopic view and see the greater landscape – in time and space – from an elevated perspective. Acting in support of the best health of all requires us to step back, look around, think long-term and extend the circumference of our circle of impact. Good for me can also be good for you. May we raise our consciousness and consideration to an altitude that allows us to see and serve the collective.