Sunday, January 17, 2010

Don't quit being disappointed

I just received a message from one of my staff saying yesterday was a sad day for her. While doing some service work, $220 was taken from her purse. She explained that she had already cried over it and had decided that someone else must have needed it more than she did.

I know it must've hurt. She works for Americorps (a domestic peace corps)...which means she is getting paid very little...and she is saving up for school so she can go back in the fall. She oversees one of our programs and teaches students in another one. She works more than overtime making sure everything is absolutely wonderful for the students. I know because I get emails and messages from her at 2:00 a.m. while she's thinking about lesson plans, posting to the blog, or dreaming up ways we can do cool technology things with the kids.

I know how she feels. I, too, have had things taken from me. I explained to her that each time it's happened to me, it is no less devastating or disappointing to me. It disappoints me because I expect so much more from people. It always bothers me that my stuff is gone...but I think it bothers me even more so when I think about who might have taken it.

It bothers me because I know the people who make the decision to take something that isn't theirs are hurting. Some are working very hard and still don't make enough money to provide for their family. Others have grown up in neighborhoods where drugs offer an escape and end up sucking them in and consuming their lives. Often times, whether it is the first or second reason, it is the kids who suffer. The kids are the ones left without adequate food, basic healthcare, and proper supervision, not to mention the wants and desires they have to be the way society presents every other kid in America.

It makes me sad because I know stealing doesn't make them bad people. Survival is hard...and often causes people to hurt those they love. I've heard too many stories from kids who are now adults to believe that surviving as a kid in poverty is easy. On the other hand, over the years, I have gotten to know kids who may have little of nothing, but you could leave $1000 on the table in front of them and they wouldn't touch it.

As I read Michael Eric Dyson's April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Death and How it Changed America, something Dyson wrote about Martin Luther King, Jr. stood out:
If he [King] had given up on the American dream he would have stopped being disappointed in white America.
I am glad I continue to be disappointed. I am glad that it makes me sad when something bad happens. To stop being disappointed, sad, and hurt when something bad happens in our communities implies that change can't happen. And I refuse to accept that change can't or won't happen.

I will continue to hope, to teach, to inspire, and to work toward change...not just in the community...because that is just a symptom of what is really wrong. Change must be made throughout a larger system. And I know that one of these days, whoever took the $220 will be part of creating that change with us.

Note: Michael Eric Dyson is going to be in town tomorrow evening to speak for the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture symposium.
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