How can we be useful to others?

Do I just give advice, or do I actually try to help people -- the way people have helped me?

Published May 31, 2010 11:01PM (EDT)

Dear Reader,

Well, I'm getting closer to actually answering a letter in the old-fashioned way. But here's the thing. I want to put this operation on a somewhat new footing. I will tell you a little about that.

You see, back when my insurance company balked at paying for my proton beam radiation therapy, I crossed a line. I asked you for help. And you came through for me. That changed my life. I realized that we have enormous power when we act as a group. This has been evident to countless people in the past. So sue me for getting it late. I finally got it.

So I asked myself, if I were to climb out of my very precious writer-as-protected-soul cocoon and take a stand on some things that might make a difference in the life of one or two — or 10 million — people, what would I do? What do I care about?

Here is something I care passionately about that perhaps we can do something about: I care about people who use drugs. It breaks my heart that people go to jail for using drugs. I myself used drugs for quite some time. I don't think that people who use drugs should be put in prison for it. That strikes me as a great human tragedy. It is something I feel I should speak out about. It is something I know about. I could be in prison myself for some of the things I have done.

So I look at the situation with marijuana laws, and I think, it's crazy for me to be silent. But I do not know exactly what the right solution is. I mean, I have a picture of an ideal society in which we view drug use as part of a spiritual and emotional quest, and we view addiction as a disease, and we provide compassionate care and intervention to pathological users, and we view all this as stewardship of our fellow humans, much as in an ideal society we would view the caring for our environment as a kind of stewardship, etc.

So I thought I would solicit from you questions about the topics that I really want to write about. That way, I can return to the proper advice-column form, but also get to address the topics that interest me and move toward some kind of collective action.

So let's talk about marijuana legalization. Let's talk about your use of marijuana, and how marijuana has helped or hurt you or your family, and what you think about California's proposed new law, and so forth.

I will respond to your letters in this column. Perhaps we can help each other, or help someone else.

By Cary Tennis

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