Monday, April 27, 2015

The Quality of Mercy

A tornado recently tore through Northern Illinois, devastating the tiny town of Fairdale, Illinois, and killing two of the 150 citizens. Here in Rockford, where most of us feel being in a valley gives us total immunity from tornados, the emergency siren sounded three times, sending most of us to the basement. It wasn't until later in the evening that it was confirmed a tornado had touched down in several locations. By night's end we knew the damage was severe. At one point a dozen people were trapped in the basement of a tavern that had been wiped out.

In typical fashion the recovery effort began right away. Everyone seemed to want to help rebuild the tiny town of Fairdale. Donations flooded in. To the point where recovery organizers told people donations of almost everything but money was no longer necessary. And the people came to rebuild Fairdale. 

It is a heartwarming confirmation of the goodness of people and their willingness to help each other out in times of crisis.

So why am I playing the abrupt record needle scratching sound effect that would indicate that I'm not completely on board with the goodness and decency bandwagon?

I'll tell you why.

A WIFR story recently reported that there are 43 homeless veterans in the city of Rockford. There are approximately 20,000 children in the area going hungry. A lot of the time Rockford seems like it was hit by a tornado. Homeless people freezing to death in parking garages, legions of the disabled and mentally ill wandering streets after being turned out of shelters and treatment facilities, a heroin epidemic claiming lives at an alarming rate, and the third highest rate of violence in America. 

Makes one wonder why local residents were so willing to help victims in a small town most of them will never even drive through, but most have never volunteered or donated to a cause here in Rockford. 

Truckloads of supplies were filled to help the people of Fairdale. But when similar appeals are made by food pantries and social service agencies here in Rockford donations are hard to come by. 


Instead of feeling the heartwarming confirmation of human goodness and decency the outpouring of generosity for the people of Fairdale has elicited in others, I'm left with a dose of the opposite reaction: if this type of effort can be mustered to help certain people in their time of need, why can't the helping hand be extended to so many others that need it desperately?

"The quality of mercy is not strained." I think I read that somewhere. One can't cajole others into caring about that which they are not inclined to care about, so one can only assume the refusal to show mercy for the less fortunate in  Rockford  speaks volumes about what certain people do and do not care about. After Fairdale has been restored to order, and all the volunteers go home feeling good about their good deeds, 43 veterans will still be homeless in Rockford every night, 20,000 children will go hungry, and no volunteers or truckloads of donations will arrive to change that.


  1. I appreciate your post, reference to our homeless and hungry

  2. I have been reading your blog and you are part of the problem that Rockford faces itself. Extreme pessimism. Yes the city has problems, and you do a very good job raising those points. However, you do not offer any solutions or positive outlook on things. You complain about a lack of community in one of your posts. Where is your contribution to community? Nobody wants to be around a group of people who are constantly complaining. You take a seemingly simple event like donating to the residents of Fairdale, and even turn that into something pessimistic. Yes I appreciate your work for raising the issues in Rockford and they are serious issues but you are not part of the solution. You are part of the problem.

    1. I find it gauche to talk about one's charitable contributions to the community, but I will say just because it happened over the weekend one of my favorite causes I put time and money into is the benefit for the Rock River Valley Food Pantry held at Mary's. It's one of multiple causes me and my design team work on during the year. In terms of what I try to do in the community? As publisher at Zombie Logic Press for several years we have been publishing local writers under our Rock River Literary Series. What I hope this does is show the community and the country at large that we do have talented people here in Rockford, and are not just a violent, uncultured wasteland. As far as people who want to be around me? I can assure you I have no shortage of people who want to work with me at this time. Feel free to go now and contemplate your own contributions to the community.