Good Work: Get Involved

If there is only one work, the great work of the universe going on, then, the universe itself is sacrament; it is a sacred place, and it is bestowing graces on us.  Our work, if it is tapping into the great work, is tapping into this bestowal of grace.  Therefore it is graceful work. –Matthew Fox
During a spring break when I was a public school superintendent, one of our high school students was killed by a friend playing with a shotgun.  Only two weeks after a junior high shooting in Arkansas, it hit close to home.
A school administrator saw it coming.  Always in trouble, frequently threatening teachers and other school administrators, the shooter should have been in jail.  When Monda tried to intervene, the mother admitted that she had no control and didn’t want to send him to live with his father because, “he had too many rules.”  The court gave him a few days of home detention.  A few weeks later a young man was dead.
Monda had taken over from her husband Barry, who had spent three years nursing the troubled teen through junior high.  They are both people that have a heart for young people, take the risk to get involved, and do what it takes to make a difference.  It usually works.   I saw Monda rush across a crowded cafeteria to break up a fight between two young men bigger than me.  The speed and courage with which she intervened left me embarrassed to be looking on as she wrapped things up. Hundreds of young people owe a good deal of their success in school to Barry and Monda because they care enough to get involved and go the extra distance to make a difference.
It is difficult, awkward, and sometimes dangerous to intervene in troubled situations.   But Barry and Monda’s example will always remind me to step in and get involved when I see someone that needs help.  At a celebration of the life Martin Luther King Jr., Monda asked the crowd two questions: “who are you?” – the all-important question of identity.  And when you’ve reached deep into your soul for that answer, she asked, “What are you going to do about it?” –the question of involvement.
The sad tale of the student shooting is also a reminder to all parents to stay involved in their children’s lives, to set limits, and to ask for help when needed.  It is a reminder that we as neighbors have a responsibility to know and care for those around us.  It is a reminder that as community members we must reach out to those in need.  It is easy to be an armchair philosopher and blame other people for the trouble and confusing violence that we see all around us.  People like Barry and Monda are doing something about it.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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