Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sharon Heights reaches new heights

I don't know about you, but I had a great time last night. Of course, nothing that starts with passed glasses of wine and appetizers and a glassy view of rolling green hills and blue sky - OH, and none of my kids in sight - can be bad. But this was really, really great.

Why was it so great? First I'll issue a warning (especially to Tim and other emotional folks): this is going to get sappy.

Last night was so great because of how many of us turned out to support Tim and John and other members of our team who are championing a project that has the potential to change an entire classroom full of kids' lives (and, as evidenced by the testimony of Edwina, the mother of an EPA Dreamer, their families' lives). It was so great because, well, Tim cried. And when your big strong badass swim coach cries, you cry (if not in your actual eyes (I'm incapable of crying in public but believe me I wanted to) then in your heart). The emotion flowing through Tim's talk was something that we all, I'm sure, absorbed in some way. Why is that? Why is it so easy to empathize with, want to impress, follow and be coached by Tim? There's something about him, and it ain't just his swimmer muscles, that compels folks to follow him. Whether he realizes he's got it or not, he's putting this charisma to Saintly use. Sure, he could coach us all to victory in some swim meet and inspire us to work out more. But whoopdeedo. He already does that. The simple fact that he realized he could take this coaching thing further than the pool or pavement is reason for applause. And then there's the follow-through, and finally, the execution of a plan for a night like last night.

If I hadn't come already ready to give my help in any way I could, well, Tim's teary performance would have done the trick. (But the word is it was not orchestrated. Honest.) To organize a huge, influential group for positive social action is one thing. To care so much about the action that you cannot get through describing it without tears is quite another.

Nothing exemplifies why Tim is so special and inspiring better than his behavior last night. He doesn't just want us to succeed in swimming and triathlons. He doesn't just want to make enough money to support his amazing family (members of which seems to help him in his every endeavor). He wants to lift us all, and others who have not had the means to join such athletic or other typically upwardly mobile groups, up in some way. He wants all the people he can possibly touch to have a fighting chance to uplift themselves. Think for just a moment about all the folks you know who could use their circle of influence to drastically help others who are less fortunate, but don't. Then think about Tim. And thank him, for all that he does.


Emmit said...

I was glad to hear one of IHAD's main objectives is to get the kids out of Ravenswood City School District and into private and charter schools. I would love to see a grand reformation of Ravenswood, even though I don't think a private Catholic school education is a better alternative (I'm still bitter about the church's Inquisition, their refusal of science and divisive heirarchy based on superstition and guilt).
I am greatly troubled by the "dreamer's" comment on how she wishes to become a lawyer to make lots of money in order to care for a family properly. This statement confirms the current economic disparity as one of the main reasons for our social plight. The people who served our wine and appetizers surely were not paid enough to provide for their families properly, as many of the "negligent" parents of these underprivileged children must work 2 or 3 full-time jobs of this kind to pay for the basics of survival, like shelter, food, clothing, and healthcare. Also, I come from too much old money to be fooled by the idea that making/having lots of money is the answer to a happy life. It is tragic she has been subjected to poverty, but even more so if she neglects her interests to aquire money. Is she really interested in law? The unhappiest people I know are loaded with cash. So I hope the organization's message is not money equalizing fulfillment.
Like Tim, I too have shed many tears when considering what could be versus what is. I am glad to see our team contemplating and striving toward our human potential. I too have a dream that someday the rich and poor alike have equal opportunities to pursue happiness. None of us will be able to until we all can. We must bridge this tremendous economic gap through multiculturalism. What is multiculturalism? I believe we are still finding-out, this has been the course of human evolution and I hope the future generations (my son?) will know because endeavors such as this are bringing us closer.
Alright, here come the tears thinking about a world without poverty, racism, or homophobia, where everybody is granted the means of survival in order to pursue higher interests. A borderless world united by our humanity in which every person is supported not just to survive but to achieve happiness as well...I see completely new swim records way surpassing the current ones in such a state...we are only beginning to see our potential.

Whitney said...

There were a lot of things to get teary about at last Tuesday's event -- some sad, like the disparities in income and opportunity right here among our neighbors, and some inspiring, like the fact that so many of us are willing to do what we can to change that and that so many families are eager for their children to take advantage of whatever help is offered.
I agree with you, Emmit, that the dreamer's goal of making lots of money stood out. In the context of her comments, though, it didn't make me sad. For her, the money was the means to an end: taking care of her family. And isn't that something we all want to be able to do? Who knows if she'll stick with her interest in the law, but if it motivates her and keeps her focused on her academic success, terrific. The great thing about academic success is that it gives you choices, and she can decide later exactly what profession feels right for her.
When I was her age, and even later, most of my friends wouldn't have openly stated a goal of making lots of money, but I think that's partly because they assumed (as I did) that they would have enough -- whatever "enough" meant to them. For those who've lived without the assumption that working full time means having enough money, it's more important to be explicit about the goal of plentiful income. I loved seeing that she had drawn connections for herself: taking care of my family means I need money, needing money means I need a good job, needing a good job means I need an education. What a great program IHAD must me if it can help dreamers make those connections and stay focused on what they need to do today to get to tomorrow's goals.