Week Three- Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
My neighbors are some of the richest people in the world and I have been avoiding them. I have no interest in using my “try new things” edict on Microsoft itself. But one day I really should check out Paul Allen’s MOPOP (formerly EMP/Sci-Fi Museum, formerly the Experience Music Project. They’ve rebranded twice in less than two decades). No, week three had me checking out the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
I appreciate the institution. I like that some of the biggest money-makers around are dedicated to giving away the vast majority of their wealth. I even considered applying for a job there; being a part of something that made the world better. I was quickly dissuaded when I looked at the job descriptions. I have no idea what those folks are talking about. They want degrees in very different fields than what I studied.
The closest I will get to working with them is perusing the visitor’s center. Located just past the Monorail, people can peek into this hall and see what the Gates Foundation is up to. Guided tours are offered in the afternoons (the mornings are used for scheduled groups like seniors and school kids). The building is laid out so that someone can walk through the exhibits and proceed at their own pace.
There is almost certainly someone with an exhibit background behind the scenes. The spacing out of the displays, the way a room accommodates several points of interest while avoiding crowding, and the inclusion of interactive stands all hearken back to museums. Some of the hands-on bits are a tad unnecessary. (Flip these switches. See how we need all the switches for a better world? Ta-da!) Admittedly several rooms full of signs would be less engaging.
If the entire place has the feel of a public relations device, that is because it is. There are attempts to educate. Often they work. Yet one senses underneath it all, that this is the organization trying to answer all the questions and criticisms that they might receive.
Not so very long ago, the foundation was criticized for spending money abroad and not enough in their home. (A criticism that I feel is unfair. When you start giving away millions of dollars then you can judge how others spend their funds.) Not surprisingly, there is a display highlighting their commitment to helping out around their local community.
Yes, there are things to be learned. If you have an hour to sit in an auditorium, there is a series of videos on everything from birth control to global diseases to toilets. TED videos and Bill Nye explanations will try to convince you. There are plenty of suggestions on how one can volunteer with other groups. Also, the whole thing is free. (If one calls it a museum, they have be shocked at the lack of a gift shop.)
I would not call it a go-to establishment for enlightenment. However the visitor’s center works very hard to show that the world is better with them working in it.
Week Four- Talking Suicide
Next up was trying to convince a friend that the same should be said of them. Earlier in the month, I learned that somebody I knew had attempted suicide. Saw a bottle of pills, got desperate, and took them all in one dose. I was aware of their situation, could see where they were coming from, but also knew there was someone much closer to that person who was more than capable of helping with that person’s burden. (Hospitalization and counseling are being used.)
That piece of news made me think of another person. I felt that if anyone I knew was likely to commit suicide, it was this individual. It seemed like I was the person to check in on them. So I invited them out under the auspices of seeing a movie. (Sometimes I need subterfuge. “Hey, wanna talk about your likelihood to off yourself? No? Why not?”)
We started talking about life in general. The person has it much rougher than I do. When we meet it generally turns into an unburdening session. They are convinced that their life is never going to get any better. They think that because life has not improved for them that it never will. I brought up the first individual, and none-too-coyly, asked what their risk of committing suicide was.
That was when I found out that they had attempted suicide five times in their life. Once was driving a car off the road. The other four times had all involved over-dosing on pills. The most recent attempt was two weeks ago, or about the same time as the first individual. (Did I miss a pill-popping memo?)
Their next plan was death by cop. Go out, buy a toy that looks like a gun, and have an officer shoot them. “They get paid to deal with that kind of stuff. They have programs to help them through it. They’ll be fine.”
We talked about the obstacles in their life. I did my best to listen. I stated unequivocally that I was not trained to handle such matters; I am no professional. (Sadly enough, the pills they most recently tried to overdose on were anti-depressants prescribed by his therapist.)
Then we talked about possible actions. How sometimes we get so caught up in our own drama that we neglect the world around us. That volunteering is a nice way to kill time (instead of killing ourselves). That officers have mental concerns as well. That everything happens for a reason.
Did the problem get wonderfully fixed like a “Very Special Episode” of Blossom? No. Yet some alternatives were offered. At least one of the problems in their life was addressed. Maybe they can ignore that one burden for a bit and focus on chipping away at their other troubles.
As much as I would like to embrace my hero-complex, there is only so much I can do for them. I will help out with this or that, especially if I feel God calling me to do so. But in the end, you cannot fix another person. They have to do it for themselves. I hope they do. I would be thrilled to never have such a conversation again.