Forgot to mention this, but the other day I had the chance to hear Jonathan Kozol speak- which was, duh, positively amazing and I almost cried. It was a really big thing for me because Kozol's work has been such a huge, huge influence on my life.
See, when I was a kid, my mom had a very cool way of dealing with my being a brat. I didn't really get punished, I got "perspective." If I made a big deal about cleaning my room, she'd put pictures on my wall of the bombings in Kosovo or someplace else, or of parapalegics, or an article about a homeless family- people who would like to have a room to clean, or like to be able to clean a room (so maybe I should just shut the hell up). When I didn't want to do homework, or was otherwise acting bratty, out came the Jonathan Kozol books. Amazing Grace, Savage Inequalities, Death at a Young Age, etc. etc. We'd sit at the kitchen table, and she'd read aloud to me about kids my own age who had to do their school work in between taking care of a parent with AIDS. Who didn't have nice school books, and nice quiet, encouraging places to come home to. Who couldn't play in the local parks because they were filled with junkies and littered with needles. And they were so, so fucking sad that, well, sometimes, at that age, I admit it was torture to listen to them.
But I'm glad I did. I am ultimately more grateful for that than any of the things my parents were able to give me. More than any Christmas presents, I remember the fact that my parents spent half the Christmas money on us, and gave the other half to children in need. More than I loved the beautiful house on the lake in Plymouth that I grew up on until I was five and that my parents designed themselves, I love the fact that my parents let struggling families live there for practically nothing so their children could go to a good school in the area, and have a nice place to come home to. In short, my parents are amazingly cool people who practice what they preach.
I grew up being aware of my own privilege, of every privilege I had that other children did not, and understanding that it was wrong and must change. And that has made every difference in my life.
I got to talk to Mr. Kozol after his speech, and I told him about my mother who idolizes him and how she read his books to me when I was young so I'd understand, and I told him about Rochester and the ridiculous inequalities there concerning the suburban public schools vs. the city schools (which, at one point, either did or were going to have to go down to four days a week- this was around the time I was moving so I don't recall), how we campaigned for the county to become one school district to even things out, and blabbered on about other things that I don't even remember because I was so nervous.
But can I just say- I have never, ever, in my life met any sort of well known person who was that genuinely nice? I mean, he took down my phone number, and gave me his, and said that when I'm done with Columbia I should think about going to Cambridge and working for this organization he's getting started there. Which I just may do. I think I need to get back to that. I think retail is eating my soul.