Let's cultivate culture of caring in action

"We are all in the same boat on a stormy sea and we owe each other a terrible loyalty."

-- English poet G. K. Chesterton

That is the lens through which we looked at the recent debate on these pages between professor Steve Haycox and Jeff Pantages addressing income inequality in America. They were at odds on the way to measure it, its impact on our society and whether government should address it. Regardless of which side of the debate you land on, we ask you to consider this issue from another angle.

Economic prosperity -- a family's and a community's -- rests on ensuring that everyone has access to the opportunities for a good life: a quality education that leads to a stable job, enough income to support a family through retirement, and good health. Equally true is that our individual well-being, and that of our family, friends and colleagues, is inextricably tied to the overall well-being of the Anchorage community. We are in stormy economic seas and recognition of our interconnectedness inspires us to action.

Whether or not you believe government has a role in creating these opportunities for a good life, we hope you will consider the roles that each and every one of us can play. For Anchorage to be a community of opportunities that lift all of us, we all need to contribute. We don't need to wait until Thanksgiving or Christmas to think about this, or wait until tax time to seek charitable deductions. And let's pray that we are not forced to consider urgent requests in times of dire need.

Instead, let's proactively, intentionally and consistently build that kind of Anchorage. Let's cultivate an Alaska culture of caring in action. Consider investing in your community through philanthropy. The same entrepreneurial spirit that developed the wealth of the Last Frontier can contribute to the prosperity of our community as a whole.

We can all step up to advance the common good through our own efforts and investments in these basic building blocks for a good life. There are many ways to get involved. One example is to consider joining your friends and colleagues from many walks of life in the United Way Tocqueville Society. French historian Alexis de Tocqueville came to America in 1831 and was impressed by American entrepreneurship and volunteerism. He wrote "Democracy in America" and said, "The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens."

The philanthropic Tocqueville Society of Anchorage began in 1993 with two members contributing $22,500 to United Way to make Anchorage a better place to live -- for those who are having the toughest time as well as for the rest of us. Today, 76 member households donate $1.125 million annually for United Way's strategic work in achieving community goals that raise the whole community's well-being (check out www.liveunited anchorage.org).

When it comes right down to it, we all have a role in fulfilling the loyalty we have toward each other. And we all can take pride in proactively shaping our community to weather whatever stormy seas come our way.

Patrick Flynn is chairman and Tom Walsh is past chairman of the United Way of Anchorage Tocqueville Society.