... and why I still have hope after an eye-opening week.
I spent most of my free time last week talking to people about the media, Africa, orphans, and children. All that thinking spilled over into my weekend in an unexpected way. My husband was out of town for his mother's birthday, and I wanted to surprise him by getting the hall painted and the wainscoting finished by the time he got home.
Saturday morning, I called him up to ask casually about a technical detail of the job, and was dismayed to realize I had forgotten about the other hallway, which has to be stripped before any painting is done. Argh. So, because my sons were out skiing that day, I took the opportunity to stay in my nightgown, crank up a "classics" station on XM radio -- which I'm never allowed to listen to when people are in the house -- and get to work.
All of this is pertinent (maybe the nightgown part was too much information) because while I was pulling tiny pieces of wallpaper off with my fingernails and a putty knife (we spent $20 on tools that turned out to be useless for the job), all the things people told me this week about orphans, healing the world, and journalism started spinning around in my head. As I stripped the wall, I realized six things about the media and healing the world:
1. Changing our media diet is only half the change; the media -- citizen, corporate, mainstream, and alternative -- all have a responsibility to consider what's going on the menu.
Our HumanKind aspiration to get everyone to shift 10 percent of their media consumption to stories about possibility doesn't just require readers to be more discriminating; to really work, it also requires writers to be more conscious and deliberate about the stories they choose to report, and how they choose to report them. It requires new ways we reward journalists (not just the war reporters) and offer more emphasis on the use and misuse of language in the creation of more possibility for change. (See this essay for a much better way to say this: "How to Write About Africa.")
2. When writing about a grain of sand, consider the ocean.
Though we came to this topic via a book about HIV/AIDS orphans in Africa, and have some more stories about people like Braden, there's more to this. What we're really talking about is creating a world fit for all children on every continent. The whole picture means ending extreme poverty and creating a world with less suffering. Big as that sounds, we don't happen to think it's impossible because we've talked to so many people who have stepped in and created a little ripple from where they are, using the resources available to them, and calling to others to join them--which leads me to number 3.
3. When making the leap from impossible to possible, it helps to jump with friends.
I learned this week about the Millennium Village "clusters" model. The Village project starts out in one village and then organically expands to include other villages in small, sustainable moves. They call these clusters, but the first three times I wrote something about this, I called them clumps. No matter what we call them, they're a great model for healing the world. As we described in "More Fun With Friends," you can leverage your own desire to help by bringing other people into it, your kids, your community, your book club, your church, your carpool, or your friends. Check out Have Fun Do Good's recent book review for "The Fundraising Houseparty." Clumps: the new model for giving. I like it.
4. The distinction "global citizen" is already a reality in the wired world.
Not only are under-35 X and Y generations connected through technology like no generation before, but that fact has created an inate global consciousness and increased capacity to clump (see above) and create change. Wait 'til you meet Karli, or see what Scot has going on MySpace, or see how some American grads are working to send their African peers to college.
4. A rising tide can and should be used to lift all boats; or, guilt and shame will not help create a better world.
As I was stripping the wallpaper and thinking of the week, I began to question my credentials for writing about healing the world. Here I was with a happy, healthy, educated family, able to blow $20 on wall-stripping tools that weren't working, my XM radio, boys skiing, and a hallway to strip. Arrogance in good fortune. I almost froze up: How dare I write like I know something about poverty and orphans? As Shakespeare says in "Measure for Measure,"
"Our doubts are traitors,
And make us lose the good we oft might win
By fearing to attempt."
The primary tenet of our editorial mission is that everyone has the desire to heal suffering and contribute to a better world, and many of us don't know how. That's why we need to hear these stories -- focusing on one person at a time -- of finding the way through lack of resources, through the complexity of the problems and the improbability of solutions, and through doubt. How great that we can use global media and this longing to reach others in order to create more clumps.
5. I like looking at the past 30 or 40 years of evolution of "media history" as like an adolescent punk rock stage -- all angst, drama, self-indulgence, anger, criticism, and disaster. Now it's opening out to a wider range of music: We're hearing some oldies that lasted, but also some new, inspiring stuff -- the kind of music that makes a powerful point without giving you a headache.
It's interesting that we humans began expressing ourselves in groups, to groups using music and media around the same time -- the first printing press and the first orchestral music appeared in the 1600s. My classics station takes jaunts into every decade, every musical style. Maybe now, after centuries of musical trends and centuries of evolution in how we report the "news," we have come to the moment when we move media out of its adolescent punk stage -- its pre-disposal toward war, fear, disaster, debacle, and angst -- and we start telling stories about our past, present and future, and we end up at a place where every genre, every style of media has a love song.
6. Some things might be better done by professionals. But not all.
Common sense tells me that a professional could have stripped, prepped, and painted my hallway in roughly 1/8 the time it took me. I made mistakes and had to look up some things online, but I love what's happening in my house, and I love the feeling I get from relieving my husband of some extra work and contributing to the homey-ness of our home. Though the professionals know the ropes, there's something to be said for all of us giving things we care about a go. Mistakes will be made.
Old school or new school, music, journalism, or healing the world, if the place your effort comes from is service, giving, and healing, it's bound to end up ... as a love song. Stay tuned.
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