How can 30 = 3.36 billion? A simple equation for good
As a response to the June referendum result on Brexit, for the first time ever I volunteered in a political campaign. I called US voters abroad to encourage them to make sure they exercised their democratic right to have a say. It was my way of doing more than just casting my single vote, but it was a humbling experience: my 100 calls or so were a drop in the ocean compared to the scale of what others had been doing. The volunteer coordinators had been pouring their hearts and efforts into helping others be able to make these same calls. One of them I spoke to had been in the campaign office for 31 days in a row. She said it wearily, but there was commitment, courage, resilience, and persistence behind the fatigue.
The reveal of a fragmented system last week has shaken and shocked a lot of people. When people are motivated to take action, a challenge arises: what to do, exactly? Where can I make the biggest difference? What do I realistically have time and capacity to do, when I have a job, or care for a child or elderly relative? When I’m maxed out each day emotionally or each month financially and don’t see how I can do more or better? And anyway, what cause would that be out of all the ones out there?
I get that. I really do. And, I think we’re always capable, all of us, of doing more and doing better. Some of us have what seems like a more natural ease with it, and it is about choices. When we say yes to something, we’re simultaneously saying no to something else, whether we realise it or not.
Here’s what can happen after a week like last week: we get fired up, and then the pain, anger, and frustration subsides. We realise in the immediate term, nothing has actually changed for us. The sun still rises, we still go to work, or school, or do what we were doing. We were temporarily moved, but have we changed?
One thing that came to mind is reading. Not that the result was about educational literacy; I don’t mean to imply that. I am seeking some solution that’s about the future, about what we can do today that will have an impact on the next generation. Over 120 million people voted in the US election last week. That’s a lot of people. If all of those people gave a mere 30 minutes/week for 40 weeks of the year to help someone improve their reading, that would be 3,360,000,000 HOURS a year invested in improving people’s lives, their ability to make greater sense of the world [please, math geeks, don’t check my figures there – I’m talking about reading here!].
Spending time with a child who struggles with reading could change their lives. Educational opportunities could open up for them. Imagine being a child who is shown that, in addition to their parent/carer, or teacher, there is someone who cares enough about their future to come spend time to help them understand the power of words. Support like that is invaluable.
If you don’t like kids, no problem – lots of adults need help with their reading too and the argument could be made that they need more help, because of being out of a learning support system.
So here is an invitational request: can you find a way to spend 30 MINUTES a week helping someone read? You may be connected to a school already. If you’re not, there is likely a school near where you live, or a community center who could identify adults who would benefit from your help. If your workplace supports Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, they can put you in touch with an organisation who can use your time. I have included a few links below to some charities and organisations that support literacy and reading worldwide. If you’re already doing this or something similar, you’re amazing and your work matters.
30 minutes a week isn’t much. But 3.36 BILLION hours a year sure as heck is. And that’s just in the US and using my loose mathematical prowress…
I started today with reading for half an hour at my kids’ school. Will you join me? Maybe it isn’t reading, maybe it is math, or something else that you find easy that you can find a way to help make easy for others. But reading sure is important, and an achievable win.
If you’re feeling you can’t do that, ask yourself: “If I can’t do that, what can I do?” You’ll have an answer.
And if nothing comes up, remember that life isn’t just about the doing; it’s also as importantly about the being. Be loving, kind, generous, open-hearted, courageous, connected. Love yourself and know that you’re capable of creating a more peaceful, more empathetic, more open world. I don’t know that helping others to read can solve all of the world’s issues, nor do I intend to brush over the emotional impact of last week on so many people. It does seem to me like part of a magic formula to get us to a better place, together.
If you want, please share this post and encourage others to do the same. x