Who can you trust these days? Certainly not some ex-officials of Bell, California. They used their positions and power to put millions of dollars into their own pockets by paying themselves obscenely high salaries and establishing outrageous expense accounts and perks.

To cover the tabs, they simply raised the cost of living in Bell—by increasing everything from taxes to parking fines whenever “the need” arose. When the scam was finally exposed, criminal charges were lodged against eight perpetrators.

Nationwide the number of Bell stories, in one form or another is rising steadily which gives a lot of resentful people more reason to wonder where all the good guys went. If you’re one of them, here’s a way you might get out of that funk. (Others will see the brighter side of things, too.) Just sit down and talk with grandparents.

 Enter the good guys

They can’t solve the Bell syndrome, but they’ve lived long enough and learned enough to know how to cope with it—not in anger or despair but in their own calm, common sense way. If you really listen to them, maybe you’ll calm down, too, and begin to think that the country might not be going to Hell after all.

Kids who get close to their grandparents are headed in the right direction as well. They’re in heaven when grandma and/or grandpa is on the scene. Practically every one of them under the age of 12 thinks grandparents are faultless. Older ones consider them priceless.

 Happy days are here again

“Let’s buy (or do) something for the kids” are words grandparaents live by. Another commandment set in stone is “Thou shall take thy grand children to fun places, let them eat just about anything they want, stay up late and watch TV no matter what time it is.”

 Grandparents also put in plenty of hours reading to their grandkids, playing with them and complimenting them on everything from their potty prowess to their good looks and brilliant minds.

No wonder “given their choice, most children would rather have an ongoing relationship with their grandparents” than with anyone else, according to Traci Truly, author of the book Grandparents’ Rights.

 All you need is love

Grandparents brighten the world of adolescents, too, not necessarily because of the gifts they buy or how lenient they are, but through their unquestioning love. In a study conducted by the Sociological Institute of Zurich, nearly 90 percent of 685 participating 12 to 16-year-olds rated relationships with their grandparents either “very important” (49%) or “rather important” (38%).

Most telling was their response when asked what they expect from their grandparents. Nearly everyone replied, “just to be there.”

 A guaranteed investment

And being there pays off. Studies show that “children who have strong relationships with grandparents tend to do better in school” and are “less likely to become involved with drugs or violence,” notes Diane Griffith, of the online information service, HealthAtoZ.

At present there are more than 74 million grandparents in the U.S. And because medical advances have greatly extended life expectancy, they and the youngsters they adore can share more of each other’s lives.

 In general, today’s grandparents are also better off financially than those of preceding generations. Since they remain healthy longer, they’re more active too. Although they’re into traditional grandchild-grandparent activities, their agendas also feature twenty first century fun stuff including: visits to specialized science, space and art oriented children’s museums as well as nature preserves, along with excursions and long distance trips.

 When less is more

But togetherness has its limits. Many independence-minded grandparents have the time, strength, funds—and desire—to travel, join clubs, develop hobbies, enroll in classes or volunteer.

As a result, visits with grandchildren are less frequent than in times past. But experts on the subject point out that because of their infrequency, these get-togethers have greater meaning. So do regular between-visit phone calls and letters that express genuine interest in a grandchild’s life—plus a willingness to support, advise or merely be a good listener.

How lucky we all are that perfect grandparents grace this imperfect world.