I never thought this semester I would hear the question “Why would people care?” in so many varieties: “How can we get them to care?”, “Why does this matter?”, “Why not donate to a school in the Tampa bay area?”, “Why Afghanistan?”, “Why should they donate money to this cause?” Why, why, why!?
These are questions I have now come to expect to face every Monday during my USF honors course, “One Pencil Can Help Bring Peace”. These questions have become so consistently entrenched into my mind that I truly go to sleep thinking of a perfect sales pitch; so, that I can be the hero in getting those around me to flock in herds, lines and masses to the nearest school supplies “drop-off site” for the Afghanistan children.
For those of us who naturally enjoy exploring ways of involving our self in community and humanity affairs, these sorts of questions are irrelevant. We help because we care and are aware of the positive outcome we are making. However, to some, this is not so. The traditional American society needs answers, and without answers no actions are to be taken. In other words, our society works very well on a “transactional” basis, we give and we receive, every question requires an immediate answer, and every problem an immediate solution. We are used to being told what to think through the media and those of influence around us. We know that the answers are in ‘the back of the book’ and continually take short cuts to reach the conclusion of short term goals. What fun is that? The beauty of the “One Pencil Can Help Bring Peace” movement is the mechanics in which it works, in other words, the answer or solution is whatever you wish it to be. It forces you to approach the situation of providing Afghan children with school supplies completely differently than the traditional passive approach.
Do you like the sound of defying the Taliban through education? This project helps fulfill that. Do you like the idea of putting smiles on children’s faces? This organization makes it a hobby. Do you enjoy broadening your political and international influence? Check! Or, do you simply have an office full of “junk” that you have no need for? Well, this project can turn your junk into treasure.
I do not wish, by any means, to make this sound like an infomercial and sell the idea of happiness and satisfaction through community service. However, because our society is bombarded by such similar messages on a daily basis I believe this is a tactic that can be utilized to spark interest. Our society is used to being ‘sold’ on something. The messages the media sends are continuously promising the betterment of yourself through technology, apparel and other products. Why not do the same with community service?
So, after much consideration of this repeated and psychologically taxing question I have come up with my response to the big and illuminated “WHY?” of this course and community outreach project for Afghan children. My answer is for the feeling. Yes, a feeling. This sounds wrong because it has nothing to do with the outcome of the ultimate goal. My answer is not, “to make a difference” or “to accomplish the hardship in Afghanistan”. It is an admitted selfish motive, but one that I wish everyone can experience. The emotion is one of completeness, productivity, totality, wholeness and satisfaction. It is beautiful. It is giving. It is the peace “One Pencil Can Help Bring Peace”. The feeling of peace not only comes to the deserving boys and girls of Afghanistan, but to those doing the action of giving as well. It is a tickle of individual peace that leaves you wanting a little bit more every time….