After this violent weekend, I think it is time to put this idea out into the larger universe. There were peace rallies outside churches, and vigils, and marches, and still 82 people got shot, 14 fatally. Obviously that model is not working. Thugs and gangbangers don’t go to peace rallies. Or church. We have to figure out a better way to reach these kids where they live, and I have a couple ideas.
For the past few of months, I have been researching, meeting with people from the city and state legislatures, business people, community leaders, artists, technicians, and anyone else who would listen, trying to help organize the kick-off of what I hope will be the biggest volunteer project in Chicago history. We have to change the mindset of these kids and the best way to do that is to give them options, to teach them empathy, to help them consider the possibilities, and to start allowing them to dream about the future. In their very own neighborhoods. Doing something they like to do.
My first question is…How many hours would you be willing to volunteer every week to help save a kid’s life? Is two hours too many? Too few?
What do you consider your greatest skill, or talent? Sports, music, math, dance, theater, visual art, management, sewing, writing, cooking, construction, plumbing, anything at all? Would you be willing to share that skill with the young people of your community for just a couple hours a week?
What buildings in your community might be utilized as meeting places? Churches, youth centers, arts centers, parks, schools, anywhere? The park and field house across the street from my house sit mostly empty, under utilizing all of that public space every day. Baseball diamonds, a soccer pitch, eight tennis courts, and space! Schools sit empty for hours a day, fully staffed, supported and functioning, but with no young people in them
What is standing in your way?
What are you waiting for?
So here is The Neighborhoods Project for your consideration. Consider if these young people think they have a chance, see that successful people are JUST LIKE THEM, and start to develop whatever talents or interests they might have. The impact would be overwhelming. All requiring only two hours a week of your time. Would you be willing to sacrifice two hours a week to help give a kid a chance?
I am interested to hear comments, suggestions, concerns, and anything else you have to offer. Except for reiterating the problem. We all recognize there is a problem. We all know how devastating it is. The difference is, this is an idea that presents solutions that ostensibly won’t cost anything, gets people involved, and shows these kids that somebody cares. A lot of them don’t have that.
This all started after reading suburbanites lamenting and bad mouthing the city and our problems with violence, but only step into the city and neighborhoods for fun and frivolity, articles in national publications calling us the murder capital of the US, and only showing the worst we have to offer (anyone see any national news about the August Wilson competition? Science fairs? Spelling bees? Robotics? Anything positive?), and friends who are trying to do good things in the city, and hearing gun shots every time they step out in the street. All of this assumes there is no hope. It is time for us as citizens of this beautiful city to take care of our own. I believe more than anything else that it can be done. Consider this:If all of my friends-just my facebook friends-asked two people to pledge their time, that would be 6000 volunteers. Think of the impact we could make with that embarrassment of riches. And that is just from people I know. We are trying to get businesses involved by allowing their employees two hours a week to be a part of their neighborhoods, colleges to make it a part of student curricula, which will also make sure it carries on to the next generation, seniors/elders, who are a wealth of knowledge and really only want to see young people do well, and anyone else that has anything to offer. There are no celebrity names attached to this as yet, but there are big names in every community of this city. Lets not wait for somebody famous to get involved before do something. We are running out of time, and we cannot lose another generation to this madness.
So the question is the same one I asked at the beginning of this post…How many hours would you be willing to volunteer every week to help save a kid’s life? Without it costing you anything but your time and your talent. Think about it. There are so many things kids in our communities don’t know. But kids are kids. If you give them the opportunity, who knows what they are capable of. Economics is no excuse for bad behavior, or for we as adults to throw up our hands. This is all of our problem. Lets create solutions together. There is always hope. I will not be calling anyone out until I leave this up for 24 hours, but I know a LOT of people in this city, and I want to make sure it is brought to your attention, but tagging is next.
Yes, this is how I am spending my vacation. Interested to hear from you about all of this. To quote one of my own lyrics, “I know its hard, but if we start and you stick with me, we might still change the world.” Go.