I saw a short news segment on my local TV station, Channel 43, a FOX affiliate. It was about a young woman who was diagnosed with leukemia, which is a form of cancer that starts in the tissue that forms blood. She did not speak at all in the entire news segment, they only showed her picture. She was young and pretty. I felt so sorry for her.
The whole segment was about a neighborhood barbecue party that the neighbors of that young woman threw for her in order to collect money for medical expenses. I saw the grateful mother of that young women, and nice neighbors who were chipping in to help the family with expected expenses related to healthcare. The news segment was quite short, about 3 minutes. After those 3 minutes, the viewers were left with a warm, fuzzy feeling about people helping other people. It is wonderful to see neighbors sharing stories, a hotdog and a cold beer at a neighborhood barbecue, especially if the purpose of the barbecue is to collect money for somebody among us who needs it more than we do.
The reporter never said whether the leukemia patient had insurance, what were her prospects for recovery, or how much money she was likely to need to survive a serious illness without having to declare bankruptcy. If she did not have insurance, why didn’t she? If she did have insurance, why would she need money for medical expenses? Is that not what insurance is for? But no such questions were asked. There was really not much factual information in that news segment. The main purpose here was to celebrate neighbors who care for each other. There was a lot of greenery in the scenes, which was a wonderful background for good people, helping each other. As I said, the main purpose of that news item was to leave the viewers with a warm and fuzzy feeling about how wonderful we are.
The reporter reminded me very much of a Russian reporter who interviewed a group of Czech students at the Moscow State University in mid seventies. I was one of these exchange students – we spent a month working at a Soviet collective farm and then we spent the money we made touring Moscow State University, the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg which was called Leningrad at that time, the Winter Palace and other places. The point of the interview for the Soviet radio station in Moscow was to show the spirit of friendship among Czech and Russian students, how well we worked together, how our Russian improved after a month of daily practice, things like that. The reporter was not really interested in anything we had to say on our own if it was not what she knew the interview was supposed to be about. We got the message from her early on and gave her the material that she came for. After all, if we talked about anything else, she would just cut it out anyway.
The Russian listeners to the interview were left with a warm and fuzzy feeling about the Soviet way of life. The interview was later used on FM Russian radio stations, on short waves by Radio Moscow for international audiences, and I was told that it was also broadcast with a translation on a Czech FM radio station.
I actually listened to the interview from Radio Moscow on short waves. Warm, fuzzy, and important, that’s how I felt after I heard it.
I am pretty sure that’s what the neighbors of that young woman felt too after they saw themselves on TV.
(The words in Ukrainian at the end of the sand painting in the video below mean “You are always next to me”).