Dare to Care

Election Day 2012. My friend Tina and I have just finished canvassing in East Milwaukee for our candidate. Driving back to Chicago, we wonder how we keep the Election momentum going. What will encourage people to continue to care about issues? Volunteerism, she decides. I totally agree. Volunteerism is collaborative and bipartisan!

Thumbs up to those of you who already volunteer. Many of my students have been and continue to be engaged in some type of volunteer activity. In fact, I tell parents of gifted and talented students that none of their “activist” behaviors surprise me. Their children are wired to think about what’s fair and what’s moral; they have strong social consciences. Kudos as well to the schools that involve students in worthy projects and causes. Participation matters!

And to those families or students who don’t volunteer YET, as Yamada says,“[l]eave your comfort zone …[and] stretch yourself for a good cause.” Uncertain about where to start? Take a look at Volunteer Match, www.volunteermatch.org. Volunteer Match connects people with projects of interest. Participants can focus on Chicago projects or get involved in social causes elsewhere. Long term (Hurricane Sandy) or short term opportunities (helping out with the Turkey Trot) are available.

There’s still time left to generate family enthusiasm about volunteerism for social causes by visiting Facing History’s incredible exhibit, "Choosing to Participate," www.choosingtoparticipate.org. On the ninth floor of the Harold Washington Library, there are five displays, all of which relate to participation or being an "Upstander.” An Upstander, as you probably guessed, is the opposite of a "Bystander." It means stepping up to do what’s right in a tense situation or daring to care. I’ll give you a peak into the Exhibit. One of the stories is called “Not in our Town.” It tells the story of neighbors who stepped up to support victims of a hate crime in Billings, Montana. These citizens were not going to allow members of the Ku Klux Klan intimidate a Jewish family. Neither were the police, local ministers and their congregants, and fellow Upstanders.

The message from “Not in our Town” is not only do we have to fight hatred, we must fight indifference. I’ve taken eight or nine groups of students, ranging from middle school to high school, through the Exhibit and seen only a handful of indifferent or apathetic students. I’m proud that most children dare to care, to become engaged, to accept civic responsibility and participate. Yes, history will happen this Election night, but whatever the outcome, we need to participate in social causes. Please volunteer!

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