MORE THAN 80% OF CHILDREN FROM ECONOMICALLY DISADVANTAGED COMMUNITIES LOSE READING SKILLS OVER THE SUMMER BECAUSE THEY LACK ACCESS TO BOOKS, learning resources, and such enrichment opportunities as trips to the library, bookstore, or museum. OVER TIME, THE SUMMER LEARNING SLIDE CAN ADD UP TO THE EQUIVALENT OF THREE YEARS OF READING LOSS BY THE END OF FIFTH GRADE. Source: RIF Literacy Facts and Stats © 2019.
80% should be a percentage which startles us, especially when the consequences are so staggering. Seems an adjustment in the school year would solve this problem, right? I’d argue, for ALL children. But are we making decisions about our educational system based on what’s best for learning and children, or what’s best for the adults?
The “voices” of Black History
“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” – Shirley Chisholm
“If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” – Toni Morrison
“You’ve got to learn to leave the table when love’s no longer being served.” – Nina Simone
“You are where you are today because you stand on somebody’s shoulders. And wherever you are heading, you cannot get there by yourself. If you stand on the shoulders of others, you have a reciprocal responsibility to live your life so that others may stand on your shoulders. It’s the quid pro quo of life. We exist temporarily through what we take, but we live forever through what we give.” – Vernon Jordan
“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” – Ida B. Wells
“We all require and want respect, man or woman, black or white. It’s our basic human right.” – Aretha Franklin
“Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion, you’re wasting your life.” – Jackie Robinson
Why are we SO surprised?
Over the past few years especially, I’ve been a part of or overheard many conversations about the state of our country. Folks from all parts of the political spectrum, middle, right, and left.
“the tension has never been higher”
“they just don’t get it”
“our country is a mess”
“I can’t believe where we are as a country”
“I just don’t understand how they can believe that”
“what are they thinking”
It makes me believe the overarching expectation is that we should all agree, be living in complete harmony and that democracy should be simple and pretty. Wouldn’t that be nice? I’m idealistic as they come but aren’t, we all forgetting something?
As stated by Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address: “Democracy is the government of the people, for the people, by the people”. People, people, people. What do we know about people? We’re ALL beautiful, yes, but we’re broken & complicated too. Maybe we should consider level-setting our expectations, joyfully & gratefully accept the challenges of democracy, embrace our differences and leverage them to our advantage. The grass isn’t greener. Just a thought.
The story of our lives is a composition of our choices.
LOVE vs. hate
HIGH ROAD vs. low road
HAPPY vs. sad
UNCOMFORTABLE vs. comfortable
EARLY vs. late
POSITIVITY vs. negativity
The list goes on and on but let’s focus on LOVE, especially since Valentine’s Day is upon us.
No, loving ain’t always easy. But I also acknowledge loving me can be so much harder. What does it mean to love and why is it so hard? Many books, poems, songs and/or dramas have been written about love and I’m sure there are many more to come. It seems love will be a concept humanity will quest to understand, desire to receive and struggle to give until the end of time. But I believe the answer to what love IS can be fittingly found in a book, the Bible, though I acknowledge it’s a book we all don’t read.
Regardless of your religious beliefs, I believe this unpacks love most effectively.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Again, choices. Choose patience. Choose kindness. Choose humility. Choose honor. Choose selflessness. Choose truth. Choose trust. Choose hope. Choose perseverance.
Word of the week
Symbols make up letters. Letters make up words. Words make up sentences. And, sentences are what we READ. Therefore, I thought it only appropriate to introduce “word of the week” into my blog format. In fact, this week’s word? WORD. Look at the word, word, really study it. The more I look at it, the weirder it looks. Now say it a few times. Say it a few more times. Doesn’t it sound weird too? What I love most about the word, word, is how this word took on a whole new meaning growing up in the 80’s/90’s. The word, word, when said after another person made a statement you agree with came to mean “right on” or “agreed”. Here, I’ll give you an example. “Dude, those parachute pants are totally rad”… “word”. Or how about this one. “Dude, I love your new trapper keeper, feathered haircut and Tretorns, oh and your turtleneck too”… “word”. You with me? Go ahead and say it, “WORD”.
Disclosure: this could be a teaser for a new t-shirt we’re dropping soon. Stay tuned.
Philanthropy & trust
I am grateful to have founded Bernie’s Book Bank just over 12 years ago and it continues to be an amazing journey. Over the years, my role has continued to evolve as the organization grows and matures. My role these days can be described as ambassador, cultivator & steward. I love what I do, especially when it comes to introducing new people to our mission and organization. Often times, a tour of our now 65,000 sq. ft. facility is part of this introduction. Each tour I give, I relive the story of our beginning and evolution. I tend to get most reflective and sometimes emotional when we pass by our Giving Wall. We started the book bank on my credit card for $5,000 (it’s since been paid off) and I remember the first dollar given to me to support the work. Each dollar is a vote of trust which says, “we believe in the mission & we believe in you”. It feels good to be believed in, but also a big responsibility and one I take very seriously. It’s a responsibility I’ve accepted and want.
Just recently, Melinda French Gates released her updated Pledge Letter. It’s worth a read. Having founded, grown and operated a non-profit, I appreciated this part of the letter the most.
“My approach to philanthropy has always been data-driven, and I think it’s important for philanthropists to set ambitious goals and measure our progress against those goals. I’ve learned, however, that it’s equally important to place trust in the people and organizations we partner with and let them define success on their own terms. Philanthropists are generally more helpful to the world when we’re standing behind a movement rather than trying to lead our own.”
I couldn’t agree more.
To anyone who might be reading this who has supported the work of Bernie’s Book Bank, thank you for your belief in the children we serve, your trust in me & us and for standing behind us as we help provide books for a better life to children who desperately want and need them.
Dad, what road is heaven on?
One night just before bed, my daughter, who was 4 years old at the time asked me, “Dad, what road is heaven on? I’d like to go visit Papa (my father) & Montana (our family dog).” What do you say to a question like that? As a parent, we get asked a lot of questions. Some we have the answers to, and some we don’t. I’m not sure exactly how I responded but I’m pretty sure I said something like, “That’s a very good question but I’m sure you’ll see them again someday”. Being a parent has been the greatest gift and privilege of my lifetime but I’m certain I’ve learned more than I’ve taught. And, I’ve learned that, “you know, I’m not sure”, is not only a perfectly good answer but an opportunity to learn and grow together with my children. And for that, I am eternally grateful.