Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What Level of Committment?

I've been visiting Civil War battlefields this week with my 12-year old son. I was in the army myself for three years, and the term "Hurry Up and Wait!" was a common one. That means that the officers would rush you to get some place, then you'd wait for hours, or days, before anything happened.

I'm sure this was true during the Civil War 150 years ago too.

This comes to my mind because it took me two days to get to Vicksburg from Chicago, which left me lots of time to think and reflect on the work we do at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection.

Then we spent about 3 hours on the battlefield. That was it.

From there we drove another six hours to get to Shiloh, Tenn. where there was another great battle. We spent about 3 hours touring the Military Park at Shiloh, and visiting another really good museum in Corinth, MS, then drove on to Franklin, Tn. We toured sites there today.

The battlefield sites at Vicksburg and Shiloh are beautiful. I visited Gettysburg and Antietam, and I feel that both of these sites are as good, or better, if you're a history buff.

Touring these sites, it's hard to imagine the carnage, and courage. On one attack at Vicksburg, 150 "volunteers" had to try to fill a trench with rubbish, and their own bodies, so others could follow them in the attack.

Thousands died. Many more were wounded. The number of killed and wounded at Shiloh was more than the total casualties of The American Revolution, War of 1812 and Mexican War combined.

My driving time gave me the opportunity to reflect on the courage these men had to have to go forward into the fire of enemy rifles and cannon.

I go through a progression of thinking every few weeks, when doubt creeps in about what I do for a living.

Over 35 years I've seen the bonds that form between many youth and volunteers in the tutor/mentor programs I've led. I've heard countless volunteers say "I got more from this than the kids do."

Over 35 years of leading a program, I've also learned that without the work I and other leaders do to make a place available where kids/volunteers can meet, it's not likely that most of those who I've known over the years would ever have connected with each other.

The program itself, is essential to making large numbers of mentoring connections possible for kids living in high poverty, big city neighborhoods.

If this is accepted as fact, then when we look at a map of Chicago and see huge swaths of poverty, we must ask the question: "What will it take to make programs like Cabrini Connections available in more of these neighborhoods?"

I think it will require the commitment of thousands of people, who serve as leaders and organizers at individual programs, and who provide the dollars and other resources needed for each program to optimize the mentor/mentee relationships.

What I'm not certain about is where we will find the large numbers of people who will make the huge sacrifices that would make this happen.

I hope others are asking that same question.

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