It’s hard to get away from disturbing news about the economy and its impact on each of us. Yet I find that the talk among colleagues and friends is anything but gloomy. The most important currency these days is not the greenback but the intangible currency of hope. And there is lots of that to go around. The issues that so many of us have worked on for years are taking center stage, and it feels really good.
For the past decade, I wondered whether my words on the unique strengths of diverse schools and communities were truly making a difference. Was the message spreading like ripples on a pond or was it merely dropping to the bottom like a pebble after a momentary splash?
In the era of Obama, the benefits of diversity are crystal clear. We have a new president who defines growing up in a diverse environment. He knows the distinct experience of being an African-America man, and he, like the rest of us, understands the significance of his historic election. Nothing will ever be the same. Yet he also experienced and understands the white culture of his mother and grandparents. He lived all over the world and understands that there is not only one prism to view the world, not only one “right” way. He is the embodiment of how you can be true to your identity and yet learn from those who are different and become a stronger person.
The economic instability will certainly put more people in need and it will mean that many of us will have to work harder to find grants and other funding to support the critical programs that provide the safety net. But I’ve seen a remarkable thing happen – those people who do have are digging deeper in their pockets to help those who have not. I am proud of the number of people who said they just don’t need another sweater or CD this holiday season, instead pooling gift money to donate to charity.
I’ve seen this in a way that touches me deeply. My husband, daughter and I spent three weeks volunteering as teacher trainers in a school in rural South Africa last summer, and we are committed to going back with funds and more volunteers next summer. (see our blog at http://www.KuglersInSouthAfrica.blogspot.com )When a colleague heard about this in September, she said her family was looking for a charity to support instead of the adults giving each other gifts. She liked the fact that we were personally involved and knew exactly how the money would be spent. On December 23, we received a check for $1,000. My husband and I were blown away with the generosity. We know what that kind of donation means to this school where students write with stubs of pencils and have no books beyond outdated workbooks.
So, yes, I’m concerned about the economy and I know there will be some lean budget years. But there is an abundance of something we haven’t seen for quite awhile – hope – and that goes a long way.