we still remember mitch hedberg

A severed foot is the ultimate stocking stuffer.

Oct 24th 2003

13th Annual ‘Make a Difference Day’

editor’s note: welcome to all-encompassingly! if you come here often, you may be expecting our usual taunting of liberals, terrorists, or the cowardly french. well, that is not going to happen today. carolyn is going to blog at you about something really meaningful. i promise we’ll be up to no good again next time. but, for now, be awed by the wisdom of carolyn.

Saturday, October 25 marks the annual Make a Difference Day, sponsored by USA Weekend Magazine. The object is to encourage everyone to look around his or her community and find out what needs to be done and act. Those that volunteer on this day are encouraged to report their activities to USA Weekend Magazine and ten projects are awarded $10,000 donations. Organizers hope the day will encourage those that are not involved in regular service to get started, while encouraging regular volunteers to step-up their activities. It is good to note that the day is not completely altruistic; volunteers and their projects are spotlighted in USA Weekend.

This is your invitation to make a difference.

Now, I realize that an invitation from a weblog is hardly moving. Perhaps you’d like to know why I’m encouraging you to act?

I just completed a history course entitled Jews and the Holocaust in which the instructor, Dr. Paul Kerry, requested that we not merely ask ourselves, “what would I have done, but what will I do?” The course focused on the rise of the National Socialist Party in Germany, the racial laws that were imposed, the consequences, and the response of the world, particularly those under National Socialist control, during the 1930s and 1940s. Underlying the scholarship of Holocaust historians one sees the struggle to answer the question, Who is responsible for the Holocaust? What level of responsibility is held by those of the Nazi party, the German army, the civilians, foreign nations, etc.? In recognition that the nations of the world have the responsibility to protect against genocide, following the end of World War II the United Nations was formed with an international commitment and promise of: “never again.”

Unfortunately, despite the international commitment, the crime of genocide persists. The massacre of the Tutsi in Rwanda and the Kurds in Iraq are some of the more recent occurrences where international intervention came too late. As William Schulz noted, “The right words at the right time truly can be a matter of life and death.”

I am convinced that by becoming more actively involved on the local level, we will be less indifferent and quicker to respond to crises on the international level. I have learned a great deal from studies on those that rescued Jews during the Holocaust. Many researchers, including psychologists and sociologists, have studied the actions of rescuers. John Slawson, executive vice president emeritus of the American Jewish Committee and social psychologist, was one of the first to approach this area of study. (I mention him specifically, only because I wonder if we are perhaps related?) Anyway, the actions of rescuers provide us with a model to follow.

Bib Latane and John Darley, social psychologists, have noted a five-stage process that turns observers into active participants. These are: noticing that something is amiss; interpreting the situation as one in which people need help; assuming responsibility to offer that help; choosing a form of help; and, finally, implementing that help.

Research has also noted that rescuers often acted reflexively because of core moral values that were instilled in them during childhood. General characteristics of rescuers’ childhood included the following: a nurturing, loving home; an altruistic parent or beloved caretaker who served as a role model; a tolerance for people who were different; and an upbringing that emphasized independence, competence, discipline with explanations, and caring.

The above studies reemphasized to me the importance of being an aware citizen, the need to take responsibility for injustices I see around me and to act, as well as the importance of the family in raising children that are likely to make a difference in society.

Dean Rusk, Secretary of State under President Kennedy, said
“there will always be trouble in a world in which at any one time two-thirds of the people are awake.”

Be aware.

Make a difference.

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