Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Helping Hand in the Bowels of Bureacracy

It can be quite depressing to work in the Division for Substance Abuse Policy at the Governor's Office because you have to constantly consider social problems most people don't have to worry about. Our work is all about things like kids binge-drinking at age 13 and meth ravaging entire communities, which make you realize how desperate some problems have become. I've asked several people at the office how they cope with this. Their reply: "It helps knowing that I'm doing something to help."

Through the thickets of reports, paperwork, and legalese, though, it's hard to see how my work contributes to anything. It's all so far removed from the people and their problems.

Today, however, that gap was bridged—if only temporarily—when I inexplicably got a call from a distraught woman in San Diego who told me that she was desperately seeking help for her brother-in-law, a meth addict in Tucson. I have no idea how her call ended up reaching my cubicle, but once it did I seized the opportunity to do right. I told her I'd figure out what to do, and, flushed, I ran to the director of the division, who nonchalantly said she had some contacts in Tucson and called her back in 15 minutes...

That's it. I didn't even really help her directly. But it was enough for me: knowing that I was part of a process that brought some peace and consolation to a fellow human being is more than enough.

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