“A thousand points of light…” does anyone remember this cliché from the ’90s? President George H.W. Bush was famously ridiculed by Dana Carvey on Saturday Night Live for believing in the power of volunteerism and the importance of faith-based initiatives and community organizations in relieving some of our social ills.
But great ideas are often mocked. The power of that notion, though not now anointed with that aptly-coined phrase, can be seen even today in our own communities. Thousands of people have come together to give assistance to tornado victims. On a trip with my own local church, I encountered people from many walks of life, including the Jewish disaster-relief group NECHAMA.
It’s no surprise that teenagers understand tough times and want to help. One of the distinctives of adolescence is passion. Sometimes that is a good thing, as demonstrated by the group of girls from Wilmore United Methodist Church. Only a teenage girl might be able to understand and express the idea that being wrapped in a fleece blanket would feel like a hug.
If only our youth were encouraged to tap into those urges more often. I still believe that one of the problems with this generation is that adults’ expectations of them are too low. They are capable of more creativity, compassion, empathy and self-sacrifice than we think they are.
I have a niece in Minnesota whose college major is world peace. Some hear and scoff at the notion that such studies might be worthy of a college degree. But in speaking with her about this choice, I was proud of the altruistic motives and clear sense of purpose she has about serving other people and making a difference. She is not alone in her generation.
The 700 hours of community service invested by Asbury Theological Seminary students is another example of well-channeled energy. Though we might expect the faith-based value system of these citizens to naturally motivate them to give of themselves, their good deeds should not be taken for granted.
I’m concerned, knowledgeable and completely supportive of causes of the poor and needy overseas. But while we care about the poor from other countries, we should never forget that you don’t have to cross the oceans to find oppressed, disadvantaged, destitute people.
I was speaking recently to a friend who has free time, a luxury in our culture. She timidly wondered whether she might volunteer with a school or local organization. Some people are intimidated, thinking, “What can one person do?”
The correct answer is that a single person can do a lot; a group can do more; and a community can accomplish amazing things when it comes together focused on positive change.
Dare I say it? I think there are likely more than a thousand points of light right here in Jessamine County. Recent local news confirms that is true. That’s wonderful — because there’s more than enough darkness to conquer.