Sunday, January 22, 2012

This Is Why.

Did you know I'm into volunteering for my community?
If you didn't, then you know now.
If you did, then you know I'm slightly vague about it most of the time.
I didn't move to this town to become the vice president of this or the secretary of that. Sometimes, there are so few people to help communities run that some people have to say yes or else community services would die.
People aren't lining up to help out.
Believe me.

That's why I talk about community volunteer work online on twitter and stuff. I like to remind people that their communities don't run themselves.
All it takes is a little time.
Or maybe that base understanding.
Or a minute to really look at a thing and realize that there is no good time to do it...except NOW.

Segue into part two...

So, okay. Sometimes people say weird stuff. And some time last year, I forget where, someone was writing about EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS and how the The Vagina Monologues is mentioned in it and said something (I am totally paraphrasing) like "The Vagina Monologues just evokes the image of a 50 year old white woman."

Not everyone knows about the V-Day cause, I guess. They may not know that Eve Ensler has raised over 50 million dollars in aid for girls and women suffering torture around the world through her V-Day organization. (Read about her work in the Congo here.)

But this isn't Eve all by herself.
A lot of people are V-warriors. There are tens of thousands of us.
All races, ages, genders and classes.

I usually save all V-Day talk for a little later in the year when there are shows in thousands of locations worldwide including the one in my town.

So why am I writing about it today?

A freshman in high school named James Damore.
(Clue: Not a 50 year old white woman.)

I woke up on Tuesday to a call from my mother. My mother always calls early in the morning when I'm in the local paper. Tuesday, there was a great review of EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS in the weekly teen section, called Voices. I picked up a copy of the paper on my way back from the preschool drop off and when I opened it, I saw that name in the byline.

James Damore.

I met James on the set of I Am an Emotional Creature. Considering the aforementioned gap in popular knowledge when it comes to Eve Ensler's life's work for women, I will link you here to this book: I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World which was released in 2010 and was a brilliant segue into the next generation of warriors who can fight the good fight to end violence against women. Our local V-Day put on the show last year as a companion show to The Vagina Monologues. I watched it every time.
I Am an Emotional Creature pretty much blew me away.

The script was amazing.
The actors were all fantastic.
The teachers involved were incredible.
But the thing that made my heart do that twisty thing during every show was this: All the actors were teenage girls.
And the crew were teenagers too.

And so... I met James Damore, V-man and crew, whose sister was in the show and who is quite an actor himself.

To see his name on the byline of a review of EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS, for me, was one of those moments that an author doesn't get very often. I had no idea he had read the book or had written a review. This has nothing, really to do with a great review for which I am more than grateful. This goes deeper than that. I knew that James knew. 

He knows the deal.
He knows what V-Day is.
He has given his time to help women and girls.
And the dude is only a freshman in high school.

This is why.

It's why I ask you to go see the show.
Or at least look into the cause [before you badmouth it.]

It's why I ask you to serve in your community. I don't care how. If you use your community's resources then you should consider giving back. Most communities run on the sweat of very few volunteers. Becoming one of them gives a sense of pride and links you to where you live and the people there.

It's easy for me to be a V-warrior...long before I'm 50. I've been an active feminist since birth. I plan to go out swinging.
It was easy for James to be a V-warrior. He saw he was needed, he loves theater, and he said yes.

The more people out there who value another's hard work to do good in the world rather than judge them, the better our chances will be to succeed. The simplest answer is to act.

This is why.

Be a James. Don't let anyone tell you that volunteering is a pain. Or too much work for nothing. Or that it might take up too much of your time. I've done it in my teens, my 20s, my 30s and my 40s. With kids, without kids, with jobs, without jobs. I just did it.

The time is now to help keep your towns alive. You don't have to do anything you don't want to do. Find something you love and ask them how you can help.

This is why.


Jonathon Arntson said...

I've not been purposeful or diligent in my volunteering, but this post lit the fire. Thanks!

Maya said...

As always, well spoken! And if only we all could be a bit (or a lot) more like James. Here's to V-Day, and to the cause! I'm hoping to see it again this year. Even after all these years of watching it again and again, it still reminds me that this happens, people care and KNOW and dammit, I'm not alone. As a survivor, I fight back and you've got my voice among the many others. Thank you for bringing the word out to the rest of the world, with your own voice and your books. :)

Pat said...

Somebody said the Vagina Monologues only evoked a fifty year old white woman? I think we should sick Rosario Dawson on them!

V-warriors rule! And thanks to James. He sounds like a great guy. The world could use more like him.

Wendy said...

Great post. I am always inspired by people who work in their community, however they choose to define "community."

I live in a really tiny town where quality of life depends on how much volunteer energy pours into the community. It's so hard to get people to dig in sometimes. I find it's frequently the same people over and over spreading themselves across several civic groups and causes. Burnt-out is frequent.

Thanks for encouraging engagement!

A.S. King said...

Wendy, you have just pretty much described my little town, too. I've witnessed burn out. It's always a shame to see because while these awesome people burn out, there are so many people benefitting from their hard work.
Eventually, if fund raising efforts draw fewer volunteers, then fees go up or services reduce and those same people who work so hard have to listen to the complaints of the people who never said yes.

Sign of the times, maybe.

Jonathon Arntson said...

I'm actually finding myself overwhelmed with volunteer opportunities. My county in in rural Michigan and has fewer than 30,000 people. The great part is that we have a well-funded children's museum and a fantastic library (rare to these parts). There are several other organizations that are connected to the two I mentioned. I am realizing I just need to get myself in there and start - who knows where I'll end up.

I look at the neighboring communities of comparable size and their libraries are not exceptional and there are few services directed at young people. I wonder the hell people do with their time (and money) in those towns.

Anyway, I shall now go enter the fray.