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Binge watching The Formidable 4 on Netflix: The adventures of Tessa, Joe, Betty and Paul will change your life.

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I talk about The Formidable 4 to anyone who will listen. It’s not really a must-see series to stream in and fill up your nights. (Sorry for the bait and switch.) Unfortunately, the formidable four are the nations biggest challenges tearing us apart. To explain in ways that are not abstract, we can pretend that life is a movie unfolding right in front of our eyes (episodic on pay-per-view, of course). Let’s meet the four stars who make up The Formidable 4.

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Like any good film, we have complex characters whose lives are colliding in dramatic fashion. Meet Tessa, Joe, Betty and Paul.

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Tessa is filled with wonder, curious about the world and enjoys school. She worries far more about what she will encounter in her home after school than doing math homework. Tessa represents all the children you know or learn about online. In the real world, we are talking about epidemic rates of abuse and neglect that come in ten forms (see Adverse Childhood Experiences and Anna, Age Eight) in households run by damaged parents. The adults raising children in your community can have untreated mental health challenges which leads our children like Tessa into a world of trauma. Trauma can impact Tessa’s capacity to succeed in school, become ready for work, form healthy relationships, and create a self-sufficient life of stability. The saddest part of Tessa’s story is that the abuse and neglect that can lead to trauma is predictable and preventible. Local public health data can reveal how many Tessas live nearby or across town from you.

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Joe is a serious guy who takes his responsibilities seriously. He has worked since he was 14 years old and can, after a few beers, tell some pretty wild story about growing up in rural New Mexico. He represents those who found themselves without jobs as we went into lockdown to prevent infection. Of course, many of the Joes of your world were seeking job training, placement and stable work before the pandemic. Today, we have no idea where our national, state and local economies are going. We are not entirely sure how to align job training with the future job market. One thing we do know, the Joes without good paying jobs and benefits don’t do well in many ways. (It’s a long list.) Like trauma, we can predict joblessness. We can also create local programs to address all the challenges associated with unemployment and underemployment. Local data can reveal how many Joes are living in your county.

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Betty has had a life of twists and turns. Married early, she hoped for a future with a nice home, happy kids, and caring husband. When divorce hit, she did her best to balance family life and work. The pandemic wiped out both her part time jobs. She represents all those barely making it through the pandemic and economic free fall. She seeks to keep her family safe and reaches out to community services. She may find few or none. While government websites may boast of seamless support services, the reality is that for all the Bettys of the world, challenges to accessing vital services for surviving is a harsh reality. Like trauma and joblessness, we know the barriers and we know how to fix them. This comes down to local political will and city councilors and county commissioners saying, “Yes, local government can innovate and ensure access to the services for surviving and thriving.” We have surveys to reveal to you how many Bettys are living in your city and county.

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Paul is all about caring for his patients and working tirelessly to protect his community from a world of colliding crises. Both his city and county have a lot of residents living in households near the federal poverty level. He represents the national, state and local response to COVID-19 and future pandemics. He arrives with many questions that focus on how a society ensures the health of its people in an era when one plane arriving JFK from overseas can lead to a rapidly spreading virus, surges in hospitals and their ICUs, with body bags being stacked in temporary morgues by the national guard. If we have learned anything from COVID-19, we know we need to build public health infrastructure in each of the nation’s 3000+ counties. We have seen how other countries have committed resources to ensure quality care for all. Like trauma, joblessness and barriers to vital services, pandemics are a formidable challenge that can be reduced with an effective response. Of all our four characters, Paul is the most unpredictable. We will never know when he shows up.

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To truly address our formidable four challenges, imagine they are each a neighbor you invite into your home and workplace. With Tessa, Joe, Betty and Paul at the table, you won’t lack for conversation and a sobering reality check. Each character and challenge has a back story we need to understand. Most importantly, each has an ending waiting to be written.

Mobilize! Survive! Thrive!

Please excuse any typos as I construct an article at 3am on only one cup of joe. These stories are mine and mine alone. I do not represent any organization here. Words and images ©Dominic Cappello but share with everyone you know. Questions? Push to front of reading list: 100% Community: Ensuring 10 vital services for surviving and thriving and Attack of the Three-Headed Hydras: Confronting Apathy, Envy and Fear on the road to saving humans and the future. Better yet, let‘s meet at the EYE bookcafe to share a latte and some bold ideas.

A NY Times bestselling author, social justice activist, Oprah guest, co-author of Attack of the Three-Headed Hydras, 100% Community and Anna, Age Eight.

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