Between the article and Bryan Stevenson’s video, the title of this section kept resounding in my head. Not because of the reading, but because Change the World is half of the slogan for the AmeriCorps program I worked at for 8 years. Changing the world was something that I was actively taking part in, something I had dedicated myself to, and had given the early years of my career to do. This is repetitive for those of you following my blog closely (which is all of you), but those 8 years spent working in an urban school that was part of a high school dropout factory matriculation system was the most challenging, and rewarding experience of my career.
I got proximate, I worked in and spent a vast amount of my time on the Westside of Chicago. My entire friend network was made up of a painstakingly manicured diverse group of people all dedicated to the same cause. We went through an ob-boarding called basic training (no relation to the military I promise) where we were “broken”, and our community was rebuilt with the values that our program saw as most important to ensuring we would succeed in our schools, and with our children.
I had dated a young woman from college for three and a half years, until the day she interviewed at an inner city school and told me that she just couldn’t see herself working with those kids. They aren’t those kids, they were my kids. Students that I had come to know and love, who’s parents trusted me with their children, that is who she was talking about. We broke up that same day. We were in a community that I had spent over a year becoming part of. You know you make it when the police quit stopping you because they think you are in the neighborhood to buy drugs.
We had little slogans at work like doing 3 “squishy” things a day. This is about getting uncomfortable. Through all this I realized the one thing that this work had given me, it gave me hope. When the last election results came in I did not fear for the worst, I was hopeful. Our elections are constantly close calls, where it highlights every four years how divided our country is. We have had womanizers in that office before. While progress on some fronts may feel like they are stalling, the litany of bad news obscured the fact that recently the bill was signed to promote and advance women in STEM fields. I know it is small, but it is important to not always focus on the bad news.
This nation is not made of up of the whims of one person, in fact it is the collective humanity that makes America just that, America. There has been so much focus on what is wrong, when there could also be a focus on walking in the shoes of those that voted differently. Why did the middle of America feel this was the only way to be heard? Why did so many pollsters ignore the clear signs of that surge? Could we all do a better job of listening to each other? How can we all focus on our small corner of this world to make a difference?