It’s easy to see that the Mali children will benefit — they will attend school. In our country, that opportunity is a right; in Mali, it’s a privilege. What may not be as readily apparent is the benefit Nicholasville children will also receive. They will learn first-hand that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
One of the character traits often compromised in our present me-first, consumer-oriented mindset is charity. As the focus shifted throughout the 20th century from the community to the individual, less and less emphasis was placed on the joy and importance of giving.
An entire generation was taught to be sure that they got everything that was “owed” to them and to be sure to speak up for their rights. There is nothing inherently dangerous with that message unless it is not balanced by proper emphasis on the duty to care for others and to share with those who are in need.
This is the beauty of the “U.S. to Africa” project proposed by music teacher Matt Sanders. If the project is carried out as it is envisioned, it has tremendous potential to impact not only the students of Nicholasville Elementary School, but our whole community.
What better way could there be to break out of the doldrums of the current economic downturn but to consider the plight of the millions of people who would be happy to trade places with us? What better lesson could be taught to students than to sacrifice a few of their pleasures, time, and effort to benefit children who can only dream of the opportunities American children have been given? I’ll be watching for advertisements for fundraising events and planning to show up at one.
As much as I am tempted to complain about the shortcomings of our political and economic systems, it is sobering to remember that I still live in what I consider to be the best nation on earth. I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather live or anywhere I feel that I would have more freedom, peace and opportunity.
I recently watched again another of my favorite films, “Sahara.” Set in northern Mali, a warlord and a Frenchman pause to consider whether they should continue their dirty business that is polluting an underground river. Although set in a fictional plot, the warlord’s casual statement rings eerily true. He states matter-of-factly, “No one cares about Africa.”
That statement may no longer be true, at least in Nicholasville. Timbuktu seems a lot closer.