It's not that I didn't do things for my community last year: I was part of a human wave because a friend had organized a huge environmental awareness event for 350.org. Another friend did a charity show for the Downtown Women’s shelter, I went twice. Friends directed documentaries about Darfur, and modern architecture, and I bought tickets and attended. And some other stuff. And what I learned is this: My friends are really passionate about enacting change in the world, and I’m interested in making my friends like me.
So this year, if just to prove that I can be socially conscious all by myself, I decided to add one activity beyond going to plays, films, readings and other escapist activities that I gravitate toward. Something grittier, like working in a soup kitchen, or delivering meals. I looked at a “volunteer in L.A.” website, and saw “Reading to Kids,” an organization that deploys an army of people to go into a dozen L.A. schools to read to kids. I immediately recognized this as an opportunity to share my love of escapism with others! Also, some of you may not know that my earliest career aspiration was to be a librarian, because I imagined myself leading the the Children’s Story hour they had at our local library. I re-examined my lackluster ambition to deliver meals, and had to admit that it didn't have the same appeal. I figured everyone’s food would get cold as I drove around lost in South L.A. anyway (I went to meet friends last night, used my GPS , and STILL got on the freeway going the wrong direction). This was better, it would resolve some core childhood need, I'd be less likely to get lost, and I'd get to read a new book, something I like to do anyway. I signed up as a reader.*
The structure seems like it will be a story hour. We read a specified book to out group of kids, (the book is then donated to the school’s library) and then facilitate making a craft that is related to the book.
I’m also happy because it seems a sustainable activity for me as it is only one Saturday a month, which will allow for all the Saturday First Pitch meetings we have at school this semester.My first session is this Saturday.
I do have a couple of small trepidations. One is that given options from a drop down menu of grade levels, I chose third grade, because I have vague recollections of Mrs. Decker reading my class “How to Eat Fried Worms” and “Old Yeller,” and that was always the highlight of my school day. But then, that might have been second grade. I actually have no concept of what that age is like. I’m more familiar with the six and under set, as my neice and nephew are four and six, so I have more recently interacted with their age group.
Second, I have to arrive at the school for a training session at 8:45. A.M. My friends with jobs are scoffing right now, but this is sadly a real issue. For instance, I am right now still in pajamas writing this post at 9:30 in the morning. It’s not that unreasonable for someone who regularly goes to sleep at 2 A.M.
Which brings me to another new year’s intention:
Go to bed earlier.
*Because my treatment of this choice is rather tongue-in-cheek, I should say on a serious note that I do strongly believe that literacy, and beyond that, love of literature, is important, not just for getting jobs so you can eat, although that’s certainly a good reason, but because it builds empathy for different people and cultures, and to my mind, that’s step one of almost everything we try to negotiate in the world, like climate change, civil rights, and peace treaties.