9.28.2012

Don't let digital good be the only good you do

Now that I've had a few moments to reflect better on my time in New York, and quite honestly be forced to unplug a bit due to travel (and catch up on some much needed sleep), I am able now to share out my further takeaway moments from this year's Social Good Summit. Certainly many of my fellow Shot@Life champions have written much more eloquently about their adventures, and I actually have been trying not to read their posts so that I wouldn't influence my thoughts. That has proved difficult because Maggie Glenn Carter, Chrysula Lytras Winegar, Jennifer Burden, Nicole Melancon and Ilina Das Ewen are incredibly insightful advocates and extremely passionate about not just reporting about being socially good, but actually being socially good. And there is a difference. Let me explain, because moments really do matter.

I had to catch an early flight from Louisville into Baltimore, by way of Chicago. Now, I never sleep well before travel, I'm restless, filled with all sorts of nervous energy. No matter how many times I go over my packing list, I'm certain I've forgotten something, and even though I know that there is a store where I can purchase pretty much anything I've not packed, I still go over that list in my head a thousand times...and thus don't actually sleep. So being "awake" at 4 am for my flight wasn't a problem. It just meant that I would need to make sure I had all my "stuff" together so I could stay focused on the journey ahead.

The last time I sat down for the entire seven days of my journey. No joke. 
And focusing on the purpose of my journey was made clear with my first "ah-ha" moment while waiting to catch a train. I'm not an unsophisticated traveller, mind you. I've flown enough so that I breeze through the "expert" line at the airport. But train travel always makes me nervous. I can get my ticket, but I can't ever make sense of the schedule, so I'm continually worried that I am going to get on the wrong train and be headed to the wrong destination. Certainly that is part of the magic of travel, but when you have a specific place to be at a specific time, you just don't want to be "random" about where you put your person or your bags. And maybe the Amtrak conductor sensed that I was on a mission, or maybe he took pity on how utterly exhausted I looked at 9 am. Maybe it was my sweet, southern drawl when he said good morning and asked where I was going. But I know it was my comment that I was headed to the Social Good Summit that got me on the Amtrak when I had a MARC ticket. Because he was interested in sharing his story. His story of how his brother builds homes in Ecuador. His story of how his sister runs an orphanage in Africa for children whose parents have died from AIDS. His story of how he and his son volunteer every weekend at a local nursing home. We shared a cup of coffee and talked, so briefly, about how everyone can do one thing to make a difference, even if no one ever knows they are doing it. Even if their story is never told. They still can write and live their story, because that's the moment that matters.

Other moments:
  • Being at Coterie (a huge fashion event, and felt even more socially awkward attending as it is evident I am more a Glamour Don't than a Glamour Do) and meeting Phyllis Wiener  of "Love Quotes" a company that makes scarves and donates 10% of all proceeds to international children's charities. She spoke about how each scarf is infused with love and we talked about the work I do on behalf of Shot@Life. She generously gave me one of her scarfs, telling me to pick just on instinct. I chose purple (what is with that I wonder, every scarf I own is purple!) and called "mystic." I haven't had time to figure out what the significance of that is yet, but I'm sure it will come to me at some point. 
  • Having dinner and meeting Joe Diaz and John Galante of AFAR Media and talking about how they believe in connecting students with off the beaten path travel opportunities and provide scholarships to help to that end. Again, talked about connecting media with social good causes. And had delicious sushi too boot. 
And all that is BEFORE the summit actually started. And to me that was really the bigger purpose of being in New York. Certainly being able to listen to an amazing array of leaders working tirelessly to eliminate AIDS, poverty, human trafficking, and polio was an incredible opportunity. But beyond trending on twitter (which we most certainly did) my thought was that we needed to have those "ah ha" moments, moments that made us stop and think about how we would take information and turn it into action.

Building community: Anaupam Chakravarty, Carrie Lee Ferguson, and Teddy Ruge.
Looking forward to what their community will do for social good. 
Because if the only takeaway from the Social Good Summit is this blog, or any blog for that matter, then what really was the point? If we don't turn those connected moments into moments than matter, that have value and worth, then they were just 140 characters of personal social importance. And that's simply not sustainable. At one moment during the event while awaiting a live feed from another social good summit event being held across the globe, the technology failed. There was a break in the connection. And when the technology broke down, even though it was for only sixty seconds, instead of turning to a neighbor and engaging in face to face time, audience members tweeted about the breakdown in technology. So there was an additional breakdown. Everyone was so busy being plugged in that even when their was nothing to plug into they couldn't unplug. They missed a moment that could have mattered. 

So how will you make sure that the digital good you do isn't the only good you do? I certainly encourage you to sign a petition or respond to an action alert (I post enough of them and ask you to do so on a fairly regular basis), but go one step beyond that. Find out what is happening in your community to address issues of poverty, about transforming education, about simply helping others. I wrote this in response to a post on my Facebook page about the book (and documentary on PBS airing this next week) Half the Sky and why I advocate (and travel so much at times to do so):

"I guess that's what it really comes down to for me as to why I left my family (who I absolutely adore) for a week: I am going to do everything in my power to make this world a better place, and my part may be a small part, but at least I can say I did my very best. So to answer F (my daughter) who asked me the night before I was leaving, "do you love the children of the world more than me?" No, I love you so much that I want to make sure you get to meet the children of the world and that you all have an incredible world to live in, where everyone is healthy, where everyone is respected, where care, compassion, and concern towards and for our fellow man are what guide us in the direction of our days. I've written this so many times, it really gets down to the basic golden rule: treat others how you would like to be treated."


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And one of the very best things we can do is dwell in possibility. Turn a tweet into an action, an action into a movement, a movement which can change the world. And you don't have to do it alone, trust me, a community is out there waiting for your voice, time, talent, and energy. Don't let the digital divide you from those around you. 

Because everything is possible. 
















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