It doesn’t take much to make a difference and there is no better place than San Francisco, the center of liberal thinking, to discuss this concept.
Our first meeting today was with a guy named Leon Veal. Leon was a very interesting person because he was illiterate until age 44 when he decided to join Project Read. Project Read is a non-profit, local organization that teaches people who are illiterate and out of high school how to read and write. Leon met with a volunteer tutor each week for an hour to learn basic reading and writing skills. He then explained to us that this one individual changed his life in ways he could not imagine. Leon made it quite clear to all of us that illiteracy was a major issue in America. One in every four Americans is illiterate or reads below a third grade level. This came as a huge shock to most of us. Leon discussed how easy it is for us to make a difference in our own communities by volunteering our time to help kids who are susceptible to illiteracy in their elementary school years.
Our second meeting today was with a person named Wen Lee. Wen works for ACE (Alliance of Climate Education.) This is a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate as many people as possible about the environment and how we can help prevent global warming. Using a creative guided animation, Wen showed some of the possible long-term effects if we don’t start making a change now. Wen showed us that our generation is subconsciously having a negative impact on the world by producing way too many green house gasses. When we have the perfect amount of green house gasses every species can be secure in there respective environment. When we create too many green house gasses it can make the temperature warmer and can put a lot of species in danger, including humans. After the presentation Wen asked us to be creative and come up with different ideas on how we can help save the environment around us. Once we came up with some simple solutions, Wen introduced us to an acronym that showed us a manageable way to save the environment. DOT or Do One Thing is a simple way to get a jump start on saving the earth. Just doing one thing such as taking a shorter shower, carpooling to school or bringing your own bag to the mall could make a huge impact on the world today. She encouraged us to make change through manageable small actions and to spread the idea of DOT to a many people as possible.
After our meeting with Wen we hopped on the BART (the train of San Francisco) to University of California Berkley. Billy talked to us about the power of students and how Berkley’s students were the first to demand the right to represent the issues they were passionate about.
After an intense grilled cheese amongst the hippies of Berkeley, we went to welcome shabbat with a local chavurah minyan. The synagogue we visited is led by Noted writer and Jewish thinker Rabbi Michael Lerner. He got us all thinking about different ways to make prayer work for us and what is the true meaning of Shabbat.We experienced the intense power of prayer and brought in Shabbat with singing and dancing.
Overall, today was a day to realize that each one of us is capable of making a significant impact whether its helping out a young student learn to read, spreading the DOT acronym, or demanding the right to stand up for what you believe in.