so i got up extra early this morning and left my downtown apartment in the rain donning chuck taylors and denim, to head to a united way funded daycare center in harlem to volunteer with some folks from my company. not only was the crew primarily white, but even absent that fact, we couldn’t have been any more out of place. it was hilarious and embarrassing all at the same time. here come the downtown bankers, “dressed down” carrying longchamps bags and wearing gucci horse bit loafers, to harlem to come play with a few poor kids for a couple of hours. it was so painfully contrived and moderately shameful. i cannot decide if these kinds of activities actually reinforce how fortunate we are and how important it is to give back, or if they just make people feel better about themselves for a few hours and then forget about kids who live in the projects and whose chances of achieving even modest success have already been severely hampered by the circumstances into which they were born.
i find it both frustrating and disgusting that so many kids start life out already screwed. i struggle with the fact that they will never know the kind of opportunities that even as a less than priviliged child, i always had afforded to me. if nothing else, a sense of safety and security in my home community. i certainly don’t feel any better about myself and the only positive feeling i was left with was a deep sense of respect i have for the teachers and other direct care providers who serve as surrogate parents for these children.
i left confident of one thing, i am certain that the educators are underappreciated and underpaid and even though i’m not sure it has the greatest possible impact, i will continue to give a percentage of my salary to the united way, because at the end of the day, doing something is better than doing nothing at all.
and god knows, i’m not about to become one of those teachers as three hours with the kids was enough to make me so tired i’m nearly comatose so for now, they will have to settle for my cash.
Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy.-President Barack Obama, DNC August 28 2008
How are we going to do that?