I find it incredibly important for me to take some time now and then to reflect on why I do the work that I do. I love my job, but there are definitely times where I lose focus of why I spend my time working in the ways that I do for social justice. A few months ago, I talked about the incredible hope and inspiration that the students from HOBY give me, so I figure that Thanksgiving week is a great time to stop and reflect on what keeps me going, what inspires me in my work.
This is what inspires me:
Last week, I had the incredible fortune of speaking at two amazing schools on two days in East-Central Washington. An incredible HOBY WA alum named Carli brought me to Othello High School in Othello, WA to speak on Monday, and amazing sisters and HOBY WA alums named Sandra and Maritza brought me to speak at Warden High School in Warden, WA on Tuesday.
Now, I have spoken to thousands of young people all over the United States in drastically different communities and settings. Everywhere I go, though, I find the same thing: Young people thirsting to make their communities better places. In many cases, I find young people doing just that. They are volunteering, advocating, working, playing, dancing, singing, and imagining their communities into new and better realities. Almost as often, though, I find young people who are simply waiting to be told that it’s okay to care. It’s okay to want things to be better. It’s okay to take the action necessary to make our world what they want it to be.
You see, the reason that I love what I do is that my job is easy! Sure, I talk about some pretty tough subjects, but with young people everywhere thirsting for these conversations and waiting to take those conversations to the next level of action, my work is only peripheral to the real change that happens. I love my job because every single time I work with a school, I am reminded that there is hope! I mean, I read the news FAR too often (maybe 20 times a day), and in doing so, I read a heck of a lot of doom and gloom. Then I head out on the road, though, and work with young people like the incredible ones at Othello and Warden High Schools.
For two days last week, I spent time with about 1500 young people who are working to build a better world one step at a time. For many of them, it starts with themselves. Then it turns into school-wide change. The change in the school leads to change in the community, and change in the community only extends further outward. Writing to thank me, Sandra from Warden High School said that the students “know that we can work together to have a positive change . . . The change is being noticed and I know it will become more noticable daily (not just by me).” She was writing to thank me, but the person who should be thanked is Sandra.
Sandra, Maritza, Carli, and the hundreds of other young people in their schools are the ones who deserve thanks because they are the ones now committed to tearing down the walls of prejudice, bigotry, and hate that keep their school from rising to its fullest potential. It’s cheesy, but the reality is that I am just a spark. They are the fire that will make their schools, their communities, their state, our country, our world a better place! This is why I do what I do. I am blessed to work with the most amazing people in the world, people who are being the change they wish to see.
So on this week of thanks, I guess that’s what I’m most thankful for. I am thankful for people like my readers, like the amazing young people that I work with all the time, thankful to their teachers and administrators, thankful to my friends and family . . . I am thankful to these people because they are the ones who are realizing a better world.
What more could I ask for?