Seeing the trees in the forest

We spend a lot of time talking about the need to see the “big picture.” It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about–the big picture is what’s important and how we need to make our decisions.

That’s true…but it’s also false. We cannot make wise decisions about the big picture until and unless we put faces with the impact of our decisions. We must see the trees in the forest.

I’ve thought about this recently for several reasons. What happens when we cut medical funding for transplants? That sounds like it might be an effective way of helping to balance out-of-control budgets, since survival rates are iffy…at least in the big picture. But what about the small picture? What does it mean? Recently it has meant death–for specific individuals who had been approved for transplants, but whose potentially life-saving surgeries were cut to save money.

We’ve cut funding for mental health services, leaving many individuals and their families without access to treatments that could help them manage their illnesses…and then we proclaim surprise and shock when they cause harm to themselves or others.

Yes, we need to get our spending (both personal and national) under control. But in order to do that well, we must see both the big picture and the small ones. We must see both the forest and the trees.