Last week, Pope Francis had some strong words for our gridlocked Congress, reminding our leaders of the urgent need for real solutions to problems facing our country and our earth: climate change, immigration and global poverty.

“We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the golden rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,'” he told Congress.

Pope Francis reminded Congress about the plight of homelessness: “We can find no social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever, for lack of housing.”

This is especially relevant for us, as Los Angeles County is home to the largest number of people experiencing homelessness in the country.

He also reminded our country’s leaders about the need for compassion toward those who come to our country in search of a better life: “On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children?”

And he pleaded with Congress to show leadership to, “avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.”

You don’t have to be a Catholic, or even believe in God, nor do you have to agree with every one of his positions for Pope Francis’ call to action to resonate. These issues, poverty and inequality, climate change and mass immigration caused by a world in turmoil, have become very real crises in our generation and it is up to us to decide whether we will work together to find compassionate solutions.

These issues are more than simply arcane policy discussions for wonks and bureaucrats; these are moral issues and our decisions, at the national, state, and local levels, impact the lives of real people.

Pope Francis is calling our world’s leaders to action, but every community must hold itself accountable for doing its own part. And Santa Monica, as part of one of our country’s largest metropolitan areas, can lead the way toward significant positive change.

The decisions we make affect the single working mother who had to miss another shift at her second job. Instead, she is sitting in the waiting room of the ER, worrying about how to pay the bill after her son’s fifth visit to the hospital this year due to yet another asthma attack because he is growing up in a neighborhood where the air quality is the worst in the region.

They affect the family of five crammed into a one-bedroom apartment in our city because it’s all they can afford, but they want their children to be able to attend our schools.

They affect the whole population of a little-known island nation, Kiribati, that could be swallowed up by the sea in the next half-century because we continue to pump our atmosphere full of greenhouse gases.

They affect the veteran who, after serving her nation overseas, is now living on the streets because she can’t get the support she needs to deal with the psychological trauma of combat.

They affect the father from the slums of Quito who risks his life, traveling thousands of miles and through many different countries on foot with minimal supplies, for a shot at making more money to send back home to his family only to be locked up like a criminal once he arrives in the U.S.

Santa Monica is not an island. We are part of a larger region and part of the global community and we have responsibilities to our neighbors, both literally next door and around the world.

The question for us in Santa Monica is whether we will come together civilly to meet our responsibilities as a member of those regional and global communities. Or, will we, like our national leaders, get bogged down in partisan bickering while these crises grow even direr?

Shari Davis, Cynthia Rose, Ernie Powell, Jason Islas, Leslie Lambert, Judy Abdo, and Irene Zivi for Santa Monica Forward. Read previous columns at www.santamonicaforward.org/news.

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