So here's a story that you won't hear on the news or from a politico's mouth.
I have a patient, an elderly white man. His wife died 2 years ago, and he has no kids or local siblings. In 2010 he developed a relentlessly progressive neurological disease, with increasing disability over time.
A long time ago, when he was a teenager, his parents were prominent members of the Grumpyville community. When a group of black families wanted to build a community center, the majority of Grumpyville whites fought like hell to keep them from doing so. Because, after all, they were black people.
But Mr. Patient's parents were different. They had this bizarre (for the time) view that people were equal, and should be treated fairly. So they stood up against the majority of the community, bought a parcel of land for the community center, and then financed a large part of it out of their own pockets.
So it got built. And became a successful (and still in existence) black center in Grumpyville. Years went by. Mr. Patient's parents grew old and died, and then Mr. Patient grew old and sick.
There's nobody at the community center old enough to remember how it got started. Although the center's humble origins are doubtless memorialized somewhere on a wall or booklet, most of its members are my age or younger now.
Mr. Patient is stubborn (like most guys) and been reluctant to leave the house he and his wife have owned for 50 years. To him moving into a care home was out of the question. His financial resources, though comfortable, didn't allow him to hire much in the way of outside help. And he was too stubborn to call friends for help. So he worsened, and became increasingly unable to care for his home and self.
Usually these situations end in disaster. The patient is found lying on the floor, dead or near it, after the postman notices no one is getting the mail. But this one was different.
Last month, through the community grapevine, one of the administrators of the black community center heard about white Mr. Patient, and realized who his parents were. He contacted him to offer help, and to my surprise, Mr. Patient accepted.
So now Mr. Patient is able to continue living at his house because volunteers from the community center, all born long after the place was established, come to his home a few times a week. They bring him meals and groceries, help with the upkeep of the house, and are allowing him to stay there as long as possible.
That's what real measures of human change are.