Sally-Ann Roberts has worked for a New Orleans television station for forty years, twenty-six of them as co-anchor of its morning show. She will be retiring next month. Why is this story making national news?
Because her sister is Good Morning America's Robin Roberts. And because, as Robin explained, "the only reason I'm here living, is she was my bone marrow donor." When Robin was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder in 2012, her sister's sacrifice saved her life.
In other words, Robin Roberts is alive because her healthy sister made Robin's problem her problem.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof reports that every day, the number of people in the world living in extreme poverty goes down by 217,000. Every day, 325,000 more people gain access to electricity; 300,000 more gain access to clean drinking water. In another fifteen years, illiteracy and extreme poverty will mostly be gone.
Since 1990, the lives of more than 100 million children have been saved by vaccinations, breastfeeding promotion, diarrhea treatment, and other simple steps. These remarkable advances were facilitated by people who did not have the problem they set out to solve.
In other news, a sophomore basketball player at the University of Texas is generating headlines today, not for what he has done on the court but for what he must now do off it. Andrew Jones has been diagnosed with leukemia and has begun treatment.
His jersey now occupies a spot on the Texas bench. A halftime video offered tributes from nearly every UT team. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and West Virginia coach Bob Huggins have voiced their encouragement.
None of them has Andrew Jones's disease, but he has their support.
The trust revolution
Who Can You Trust? is an illuminating new book by Oxford scholar Rachel Botsman. Her research documents the breakdown of institutional trust in our culture.
Recent years have seen an inequality of accountability as corporate leaders have failed their constituents but been rewarded with lucrative buyout packages. Political leaders have faced little accountability for their personal and leadership failings.
The digital age has made it easier than ever to voice allegations against those in power. Social media enables us to confine our news to sources with which we agree.
The results are startling.
In the 1970s, according to Gallup surveys, 70 percent of Americans believed they could trust key institutions to do the right thing most of the time. In 2016, such confidence had fallen to 32 percent. Trust in Congress fell from 49 to 9 percent. Trust in the church fell from 65 to 41 percent.
Millennials are the most dubious. According to a 2015 Harvard study, 86 percent distrust financial institutions. Three in four "sometimes or never" trust the federal government to do the right thing; 88 percent "sometimes or never" trust the media.
At the same time, we are learning to trust strangers in entirely new ways. We rent homes on Airbnb; we arrange transportation on Uber; we buy products on Amazon.
But before we engage in such digital transactions, we check the reviews. Airbnb properties and guests are rated, as are Uber drivers and passengers. Products on Amazon get "stars" and voluminous consumer reports.
According to Botsman, the key trust indicators are competence, reliability, and honesty.
Anne Frank was right
What does this "trust revolution" mean for those of us who seek to change our culture for Christ?
Ezra 9 finds the Jewish people back home from exile in Babylon. However, many have intermarried with Gentiles in the land. Ezra, their spiritual leader, must now respond to their grievous sin.
Here's how his prayer begins: "O my God, I am ashamed to blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens" (v. 6). Even though he committed none of these sins personally, he identified with his people. Their failures became his failures. Years later, Nehemiah confessed the sins of the nation by expressing the same solidarity with his people (Nehemiah 1:6-7).
The old truism is true: people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. If we make the problems of society our problems, we earn the right to share our solutions.
Because the Holy Spirit lives in us, followers of Jesus should be especially competent, reliable, and honest. Because we serve a sinless Savior, we should be sacrificial in addressing problems that we do not face personally.
And because tomorrow is promised to no one, we should find a need to meet today. Anne Frank: "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."
First published at the Denison Forum.