I need to warn you that this blog-post follows a circuitous train of thought. But I trust you can follow to see how it comes full circle.
I started my day reflecting on Friday’s fabulous TEDx event in beautiful downtown Stouffville. The event was a success by all the standard measures. The feedback was unanimously enthusiastic. The speakers were excellent. The music was superb. The venue, set and décor were beautiful. The registration and organization details were flawless. The lights, sound, food, coffee, bookstore, after-party, media coverage… We had it all. As a co-curator I could not have been prouder of our volunteer organizing team. But in its aftermath I’ve been haunted by one question. What are we going to do about what we heard? How is this going to be more than talk?
My anxiety over this question was made worse by a flash reminder that came up on my calendar this morning. Long ago, I had written a memo in my electronic calendar under today’s date. I wanted to remember that today is the 50th anniversary of an important speech made by Martin Luther King Jr. on the occasion of the Great March on Detroit. Fifty years ago today he made this stunning statement: “If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” So I spent some time this morning thinking about what causes I would die for.
I would die for my husband or our children. I firmly believe that and I have told them so when I try to express how much I love them. Beyond that I considered the weakness of my commitment to other important causes. I don’t think it’s because our world lacks causes for which it would be worth dying. I think it’s either because I am preoccupied or I’ve lost perspective. This got me thinking about how many of us are guilty of losing perspective.
To get some idea what preoccupies our society, I went to the websites of our local newspapers to see which issues are making headlines today. I checked the Globe website and BBC news and discovered a few headlines about important issues and many about more trivial matters. Then I was stopped in my search when I opened up the Toronto Star website and saw this article as their top story: “Homeless in the GTA: Finding affordable housing especially tough for women”.
The reason I stopped my search there was because this story took me right back to one of the TEDx speeches from Friday. One of our amazing speakers, Dr. Gary Bloch, had opened his talk with a vivid description of a homeless woman who has been sleeping in a park bench in his neighbourhood. We were all moved by the story. We were stunned with the reminder that a single person on welfare in Ontario is expected to live on only $600 per month.
When I read the article in this morning’s Toronto Star and I was smacked in the face with the thought of this pregnant woman and her adorable 15-month-old son unable to find an apartment in Durham Region for less than $800 per month. It was an exact example of one of the issues we discussed Friday at TEDxStouffville when we were “Shining Light on Changing Communities”. Poverty and homelessness are not just theoretical issues for middle-class Canadians to discuss at comfortable venues in the suburbs. They are some of the serious realities of Canada’s changing communities. Their victims live and die based on whether these realities can be changed. I’m left with this puzzle. How does a discussion among community stakeholders move from talk to action? My feeble step for today will be to post some of these questions online. Perhaps it will help trigger a community response.
Is homelessness a cause you would die for? How about poverty? How do we move from knowledge to commitment to action? Who will offer shelter to Lisa Roberts? What about all the other women in our region in similar circumstances? I hope you will post some comments and suggestions below. Please join me in thinking about how TEDx can be more than talk.