If I Can Make it Here…

 Here I am in the city so nice they named it twice.  New York, host of the 2010 National Conference on Volunteering and Service.  I’m honored and excited to be speaking in a session on social media today.  Instead of people just sitting in a room listening to people talk, the session has its panel speakers throughout the room, and the attendees can move around the room as they like, listening to the topics they’re most interested in.  It allows for more question and answer, and the attendees can get what they really want out of the session.  I’m really excited about speaking at the session, because I’ll be talking about blogging.  Y’know, this thing that you’re reading here.

I’m sitting in on a lot of sessions, too.  I’m taking quite a few on how to create cities of service.  I’m excited to hear about how people have created large scale buy-in for volunteerism in their cities.  It’s something that I’ve thought a lot about when I lived in Cincinnati, especially after the riots.  I remember looking out over the city and knowing that the city had so much potential, and hoping that it could become a Great American City, but not having any idea about how to make that happen.  Maybe on Thursday I’ll have a better idea about how to make that happen in Baltimore.  And Clevealnd.  And Detroit, and all of the cities that just need a hug and a little more hope.

Something that I don’t see happening here at the conference is some kind of decision about how to move forward.  I’m kind of on the fence about that.  On one hand, we’ve got a lot of decision makers, and a lot of people with a lot of pull, all in a room.  How hard would it be to say, “Alright, here are the steps that we need to take to make sure everyone’s program, everyone’s organization, and everyone’s effort is worth-while and creates positive lasting change in their communities.

On the other hand, though, I understand that there isn’t one easy answer on how to make our communities better.  Each problem, and each community, is going to require something just a little bit different to make changes that are lasting and positive.  There’s no silver bullet.  No one-size-fits-all approach.  The only thing that’s going to make change better are the people that are working in their communities.  It wouldn’t make sense that all of us come back with some magical plan to fix our communities that might end up acting like a bandage rather than addressing the real problem.

So, it’s a bit confusing.  For someone who is about to move on to something new after my AmeriCorps term is up, I started questioning who to turn to and what to do.

Yesterday I met Chris Golden and Jen Martin, two  people that I’d only known on Twitter.  We’re “those kids” that Joe Scarborough mentioned in the opening plenary.  We were upset by the fact that older adults still insist on referring to us a “kids.”  Not leaders, not young adults, we’re those kids that just use Facebook and Twitter and send text messages and we’re not engaged.  More often than not, after someone describes people my age that way, in their very next breath they wonder why it is that we’re not engaged, why we’re not leaders in our communities.  Could it be because we’re not given respect by people older than us for what we know and what we can do?  How are we supposed to be leaders if it’s obvious that you don’t respect us enough to follow us?  A leader without followers is just someone out for a walk.

So, over dinner, we hatched a plan.  A scheme of sorts.  How can we show that people our age, and people much older than we are, can get things done in our communities?  How can we share our skills?  What’s the best way to show that we should be listened to?  What could happen to a community when AARP, myImpact, and AmeriCorps Alums join forces?  Maybe nothing will come of it.  Maybe, we can change our cities.

The lights here really are inspiring.

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