As my students worked on an activity, one young man proclaimed it is impossible for anyone to make a difference anymore. Before I could name someone who makes a difference, he discounted an obvious choice.
“Not even Obama can make a difference, ” he said.
His words stopped me dead in my tracks. I needed to know why he possessed this line of thinking. He concluded that the world is getting worse and worse. No one is doing anything to change the world, and no one can. Another student asked him about Dr. King. His response pricked my heart.
“Yeah, but who do we have that’s alive today to help us? Who’s helping us now?” he asked.
I feel like I need to give you a little glimpse into the lives of many students I serve. I teach in a part of town where burglaries, drugs, gangs, and violence are not strangers. In fact, a student was arrested recently for possessing an unloaded gun–thank GOD it was unloaded! Honestly, I don’t blame this young man for feeling hopeless.When you consider the environment many students live in, it is not difficult to understand why some of this generation may feel hopeless. As a young man of color, it probably seems scary knowing that there is a great chance others may mistake you for a trouble maker. They may even harm you because you were “suspicious-looking” or they may claim you were “out to get them”.
Where are our modern-day heroes? It can be difficult to find them in the media these days since the media does such a good job promoting the constant message that we should value money, sex, and power. Just turn on the radio. How many songs do you hear about money? How many use sexual references? Turn on your television. Since when do we need a half-naked woman to sell a beverage or a burger? Listen to the news. How many positive stories did you hear?
Maybe this young man has a point. Maybe he has a basis for his line of thinking. Yet, are we going to simply sit on the side lines and continue to watch our world spiral out of control? How can we watch passively as so many lose hope? Where are our heroes? Where are those who will stand up for us? I dare to say that our heroes lie inside each and every one of us. We all have something positive we can contribute to society. Not everyone can be Martin Luther King, but we all have gifts. I urge us all to use these gifts to help those in our communities, across our nation, and abroad. Volunteer at a shelter. Be a motivational speaker at a school. Mentor a child. Write a book. Write a motivational poem or song and share it with others. DO SOMETHING! Don’t underestimate the power of one. We can start a chain reaction. We can reignite hope. We can make a difference!