Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Sunday, September 10, 2006
 
Of Blogs and Bridges

The blogosphere can, in fact, occasionally get stuff done, and the proof was on Saturday.

My friend Steven met me because he read my blog. He's also a journalist, and when he came home to the Bay Area, he asked me if I wanted to meet up. We hit it off, not only with each other, but with each other's friends, and now we work mere blocks away from each other and meet up for coffee and collegial griping. We possibly would have met eventually, since many of his classmates have worked with me, but instead of being passing acquaintances, we've become good friends.

Steven's girlfriend Katie works at a spunky, ambitious charter school in Oakland, KIPP Bridge College Prep School. It has slowly been moving into an old building that previously belonged to Lowell Middle School, finally getting the whole building this school year. They didn't have any janitorial service until very recently, so the teachers had to clean the classrooms themselves--on top of a grueling work schedule. (KIPP schools have very long days, and teachers carry cell phones so their students can call them for help after school and on the weekends.) Steven felt bad that no one had time to wash the school's windows, which were covered in cobwebs, and that the library was unusable because it was overflowing with old textbooks and dust. The teachers have had a slow time clearing it out on top of all their other duties. Since I'm an East Bayer he asked me if I'd be interested in helping them do a little cleaning, and maybe my friends . . .?

I put out an email request. A couple of the usual suspects you know answered--Scotto and Emily Cooper and EChan--as well as another friend Emily. Let us say these were the friends I have in "real life." That's a pretty good gathering. But from blogospheric-friendland I also got replies from Robin of Snarkmarket, and Salil, a fellow commenting Sepia Mutineer. Again, like Steven--perhaps I would have met these guys anyway, but probably not. And their enthusiastic email replies were the tipping factor that made me think that yes, this was going to happen.

Several flurries of email later, we met up on Saturday afternoon. Steven brought three of his friends. We boxed shelves and shelves worth of old text books up, clearing space in the warehouse so that the library itself can be cleared out and made clean and organized so children can go look for knowledge and stories and have a nice place to do their work. There's a lot of work left, but I think we made a sizable dent. Windows were cleaned, both from the inside and outside. Salil and Steven's friend Joel were quite a sight, standing on the roof of a walkway, hosing off cobwebs and grime, uncomplaining about the fact that they were soaking themselves wet, despite the cold. The Emilies applied their eyes for detail and organizational skills. EChan boxed up copies of the U.S. Constitution study guides. Robin and I rebonded over library memories like D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths. Steven's friends Sue and Ashanti brought bagels. Scotto kept everything safe. (Not trivial with huge boxes of books--at one point he had to come and unpin me and EChan.) We worked pretty solidly for four or five hours with music and snacks. There's still a lot of work to be done, and I'm not sure if, when, or how it will get done. But I do think we helped. It's really wonderful to have friends who are willing to party with me like that.

The whole thing gave me a lot of food for thought on the whole subject of our public school system and the way our communities and our age group interact with that system. It'll be many years before I have school age children, and now I think I'm going to need all of them to do my bit for the school system. There's a lot to say and think about that, and I'll try to later. But for now I'm glad that we put aside the saying and thinking and did more of the doing. I was raised with the belief that unselfish hard work is life's greatest joy, and while I usually feel about as far away from that ideal as from the stars, every now and then I brush against it and feel its truth.

I want to emphasize how simple this was. All you need to do is have a friend who is a teacher at a school in need, a Saturday afternoon, and some other friends, and less coordination then you would put into a BBQ. Try it! It's a huge amount of fun.
 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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Blogs I Read (Or Try To)
113th Street
american footprints(Nadezhda & Praktike)
ANNA's Diary
Apartment Therapy
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Dave Barry
The Bellman
Mine's On The 45 (Brimful)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
ChennaiCentral
ClimateBoy
Combing the Sphere
Crooked Timber
Daily Dose of Imagery
The Daily Rhino (Bong Breaker)
Dark Days Ahead
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Atanu Dey on India's Development (Deeshaa)
Daniel Drezner
Ennis
Ephemera
Cyrus Farivar
Finding My Voice
Forsv
Neil Gaiman
Ganesh Blog
Geeky Chic 2.0 (Echan)
Geomblog
Green Ink!
Heliolith
Alexandra Huddleston
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Indeterminacy
India Uncut
InSpiteOfEverything
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter et al
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Jesus Politics
John and Belle Have a Blog
Mark A. R. Kleiman
KnowProse (Taran Rampersad)
1Locana
Maenad (Nori Heikkinen)
Scott McCloud
Mind Without Borders
Electrolite: Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Corey Pein
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Kevin G. Powell
QuakeHelp (South Asian Quake)
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
Reneebop
Rhinocrisy
Scott Rosenberg(Salon.com)
Rox Populi
Felix(&Rhian)Salmon
samVaad
Nick Schager
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Sepia Mutiny
Amardeep Singh
Snarkmarket (Robin Sloan & Matt Thompson)
South-East Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Blog
SreeTips: New To Sree
Steprous (Bear)
Robert Stribley
Subjunctive.net:klog
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
Tech Policy
TiffinBox
A Tiny Revolution
To The Teeth
TreeHugger
Unfogged
VatulBlog
Venk@
Manish Vij
Vinod's Blog
War and Piece
Nollind Whachell
Wonkette
WorldChanging
Matthew Yglesias:Old
Yglesias:Tpmcafe
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham
Ethan Zuckerman
Zwichenzug



Some Categories

Blogs focusing on policy, politics, and national security:
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Daniel Drezner
Eschaton(Atrios)
Green Ink!
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Informed Comment: Juan Cole
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Irregular Analyses
Jesus Politics
Mark A. R. Kleiman
Liberals Against Terrorism(Nadezhda & Praktike)
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
War and Piece
Wonkette
Yglesias:Tpmcafe

Photo Blogs
Daily Dose of Imagery
Ephemera
Alexandra Huddleston
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
TiffinBox

Columbia Journalism Folks
Apartment Therapy
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
Ranajit Dam
Cyrus Farivar
Alexandra Huddleston
InSpiteOfEverything
Corey Pein
Nick Schager
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham

Literature, Fiction and Entertainment
Dave Barry
Neil Gaiman
Electrolite: Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Scott McCloud


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