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Today, I was in a meeting at work where we were discussing a global initiative that will take our programs to India, for students in the most disadvantaged classes there.  There was this sense of, “Yes, this is a good thing to do–there is no question about that.  But does it fit in to our overall mission?  And should we be helping these children half a world away when we haven’t even figured out how to help the children two blocks away?”

It got me to thinking…  We see so much on TV about how children in other countries are starving to death, begging in the streets, living in shacks.  No doubt, they are much worse off than most children in the United States.  But people seem to ignore the fact that there is real, abject poverty right here in the US.  I grew up knowing kids who lived in houses that looked like abandoned shacks (and had the heating and electrical capabilities of said shacks).  There are millions of children who survive on the free school breakfasts and lunches, and are lucky if they get a meal over the weekend.  (This is particularly disturbing if you think about the fact that these children are about to have a 4-day weekend, and many of us will be gorging on the traditional fare.)

I grew up in a small, rural, and exceptionally poor area of the country.  I knew these kids, I saw these kids, I sat next to these kids in school and played with them after.  Growing up, I thought we were rich.  It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized we were probably lower-middle class at best.  I was amazed by the amount of disposable cash, clothing, cars, video games, whatever else, that my friends had.  I was even more amazed when I found out that only a handful of us were on financial aid.  Because I thought my family was rich, I couldn’t even conceive of the kind of family income it would take to pay for a Duke education.

Lately, it seems that celebrity culture has taken over, and luxury goods are more attainable for even average consumers.  I think that makes it easy to forget that starvation and poverty can happen in our own country, just two blocks down the street.  So, with the upcoming holiday, I am thankful for all the blessings I’ve received:  a warm home, a good education, loving parents who went out of their way to hide when we ourselves were poor.  And I’m also thankful that I understand that true poverty doesn’t just occur in India or Mexico or the African country that is being taken up by celebrities today.  There is poverty in Durham, North Carolina, and all over the US too.  We cannot help them all, but we can try.


Edit:  This post originally named the organization which I now call “that floating classroom which shall remain nameless”, but it kept getting caught in google when people were searching for the real thing.  Since I actually really do want to work with fcwsrn, as it will now be affectionately known, I figured I’d better head that off at the pass.  🙂

So, I’ve always kind of wanted to do that floating classroom which shall remain nameless as a staff member. I’ve been talking about it for years, but this fall, I finally decided to apply. Of course, I decided this in late August or maybe early September, and I haven’t really done anything since then… The biggest stumbling block so far has been writing the cover letter. So, I figured I would write what I really want to say here, and then maybe I’ll be able to write a serious one soon…

Here goes nothin’…

Dear floating classroom which shall remain nameless Peeps,

I think fcwsrn is, like, the coolest thing ever. I’ve wanted to be involved with the program ever since the Road Rules kids went on fcwsrn. That was a long time ago, so as you can see, if I can remember that, I must be pretty mature.

Sure, I’ve never ever travelled abroad. I’ve never even crossed the border into Mexico or Canada. But I’ve wanted to for a very long time. And yeah, it would be awesome to get paid to travel around the world. But that’s not (entirely) why I’m applying. You see, one of my biggest regrets about my undergrad experience is that I never participated in a study abroad program. I was just too entrenched in student organizations and Duke basketball to leave during the academic year, and too poor to not work during the summer. But whenever I work with undergrads, I tell them that they should take advantage of any programs abroad at their institutions.

And, ok, I don’t speak any foreign languages. The truth is, I grew up in a really tiny town full of people with really tiny minds. The prevailing attitude was, “Why learn another language? Everyone should learn to speak English!” I’ll admit, it’s a lot like W’s attitude today, but I swear, I’ve changed! Unfortunately, I think I’m past the point of being able to become really fluent in another language. It seems that my brain is no longer young and open to new vocabulary. And try as I might, years and years of postsecondary education has sapped my ability to sit in a classroom and focus on any subject.

Then there’s the part about how I’m totally bored in my current job, and fcwsrn just seems like a good escape. It’s partly true, but by the time you hire me, I’d be moving on, anyway.

So, please, fcwsrn, ignore all these things. Pay attention to the fact that I really love living and working with college students. They’re infuriating, but fascinating at the same time. Notice how I prize lifelong learning by reading totally random articles in the New York Times every day, and how I constantly seek to improve myself and learn something new. See the fact that I’m a hard worker, energetic, and committed to making the students’ experience unforgettable. Please hire me for a fcwsrn voyage, and please do it soon.

Hopefully your(newest crew member)s,


PS. Just one more thing I hope you’ll ignore… I’ve never been on a cruise ship, so I have NO IDEA if I’ll get seasick. But I’ll defintely come prepared with patches! 🙂

At least, I think that is what my enjoyment of this cartoon would say about me to the Neocons of the world… 

bomb comic

I am a minor Conspiracy Theory* enthusiast. (I’m pretty sure we actually landed on the moon, though I’ll admit a certain friend of mine has offered some information that has weakend my resolve in the past few years.  ie, a few years ago, I would have said “Of course we landed on the moon.  DUH!!)  But I really do believe that the big, bad terrorists take a great deal of pleasure in the idiocy they inspire in the TSA.

To give proper credit, this comes from here, which I got via BoingBoing.

*By the way, I cannot say or write these words without thinking of Mel Gibson trying to bite off Patrick Stewart’s nose.  But that is one fabulous movie, is it not?  Of course, this is back when we all thought Mel Gibson was acting crazy instead of actually being crazy.