When Carol Clark had cancer and ran out of paid leave, her husband Dave put a little note on a bulletin board asking if anyone wanted to donate sick time to her. They are both teachers in Cudahy, a small city near Los Angeles. Teachers receive 10 sick days a year and Carol had accumulated sick time, still after rounds of chemo, she ran out. Dave Clark had done research and had found out that this was possible. Through the Catastrophic Illness Donation Program teachers from other districts can donate sick time to another. The teachers can only use this little known program once and must prove that their illness will keep them from their duties in the classroom. The response amazed Carol and Dave, even a teacher who was not particularly friendly with Carol donated time. Within a few weeks teachers from across the Los Angeles school districts gave Carol 154 sick days. In fact last year 23 of Los Angeles’ 30,000 teachers benefited from this program.
People respond to need more often than we usually remember or give them credit for. What is relevant in this story is that a policy made it possible—actually a policy that is often controversial in contract negotiations. If we are to build a more compassionate society, then we ought to call for more policies to address people’s need to give.