Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Such is life...

Heavy sigh. I wrote the following editorial after the events described within. The web site of the organization is here: http://www.nrn.org/

Everybody must have heard by now about the bunch of volunteers in town from an organization most of us have probably never heard of.

The National Relief Network evidently contacted Valley City Mayor Mary Lee Nielson and asked if we still needed help with flood cleanup.

She answered, “Heck yes!” or words to that effect.

Nielson set Lori Jury to work compiling a list of people who needed help, and pretty soon we had about 100 kids from Maryland and Michigan working around town.

They’re between 14 and 18 years of age, though kids as young as 13 may volunteer.

This bunch was recruited from two Catholic youth groups. Scott Harding, founder and CEO of the National Relief Network, says they work with high schools, universities, churches and synagogues. Volunteers pay their own way for what is typically a five-day, six-night project. They usually come during the cleanup phase of a disaster,because of the potential danger for the younger volunteers.

I’m impressed.

Like a lot of others, I thought interest in helping out would fade after the immediate, dramatic danger of flooding was past.

I remember joking with fellow sandbaggers during the emergency, “Does anyone think we’re going to get this many volunteers to empty sandbags when this is over?”

I’m impressed that anyone thought to organize help after the flood was over. I’m impressed by the whole concept of this unique organization, and I’m impressed with the kids.

Of course the help is welcome, but I’m also thinking of the benefit this effort is to these young volunteers. This is a character-building activity of the highest order.

In an age when life is, materially, pretty easy for teenagers, these volunteers are seeking ways to challenge themselves.

In a time when the dominant problem-solving model is the massive government program, they are practicing and developing the model of voluntarism.

And in a time when many people feel a soul-sickening inability to affect change as individuals, they are learning that individuals are all that truly matters in creating change for the better.

Thanks from all of us in Valley City, kids. The help you bring is most welcome, but even more important may be the lift to our spirits you’ve brought with you.

The example you’ve set will live on long after the flood and is a memory preserved in our historical museum, which I hope you will take in while you’re here.

And when my children are of age, I hope to send them on just such a wonderful adventure.

After it published, I got an email from the director telling me that this piece expressed what they're about better than anything he'd ever read.

"Well," thought I, "that's laying it on with a trowel, but I'll take it."

Then Saturday a lady told me, "Hey Steve! Scott's going to take your editorial to a meeting in Maryland and show it to the Secretary of Education!"

"Wow!" I thought.

It turns out he's going to argue the program should be instituted in the public schools.


Pity, it was such a wonderful idea while it lasted...


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