Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas, Christians! Love Thy Neighbor! (Part 2)

Wow it's snowing again!!! Another perfectly Christmasy scene on the streets of Chicago today.

I was down by Water Tower earlier today (dropping off my new Christmas single at WLUW fm... which will be featured on Friday at 2pm), and I was swept up by a torrent of thousands of happy last-minute shoppers, surely filling their bags with gifts to be shared with family, friends, colleagues and neighbors on Friday, Christmas day.

Admittedly, I'm not the most devoutly religious person you'll meet, but it's hard for anyone this time of year to ignore these clear examples of what the holiday season means: Goodwill toward men... love thy neighbor... charity. These are the same values that appear in holiday carols, TV cartoons, and greeting cards everywhere this month.

And like I said yesterday, it's just too easy to draw connections between the Christian virtues promoted by the Christmas season, and Tutor/Mentor Connection support for student learning and growth in high-poverty neighborhoods.

Please consider a charitable Christmas donation to Tutor/Mentor Connection or Mapping For Justice, to help us continue working for at-risk youth in neighboring communities throughout Chicagoland.

Like yesterday, today I am featuring maps that show the locations of Christian churches, categorized by denomination, in relationship to areas of high poverty and the highways that Christians use to go in, out and through the city every day.

"Let all your things be done with charity." - Corinthians 16:14

"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Matthew 22:39

The maps yesterday showed denominations (Epicopal, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian) whose congregations are more likely to meet in areas of relative affluence, and showed how they can work together to generate needed charity for their "neighbors" living in the area's high-poverty communities.

Today I am showing locations of denominations (Baptist, Catholic, and "general" Christian churches) whose membership is more likely (although not exclusively) found IN the high-poverty neighborhoods themselves. Leaders and members in these locations can ally to draw volunteers and dollars to programs that quite literally help love thy neighbors and their kids.

*** Now, I want to add a disclaimer here! ***

When we show these locations, we are NOT suggesting that people in faith communities are not already very generous in the way they help the poor. We know that these organizations are already involved.

What we try to do is use maps to help build some kind of understanding of where organizations are having an impact on tutoring/mentoring programs, and where existing programs (that need as many faith partners as possible) are located.

Furthermore, our aim is to help build strategies that make sense of a complex problem for community leaders... and hopefully one day lead to new alliances among faith groups on behalf of tutor/mentor programs for at-risk students.

Because I think you might conclude when looking at our maps that, while many people are already working to help bridge gaps in support structures needed for kids in impoverished neighborhoods to have a shot at meaningful careers and futures... there is a lot of work needed.

Faith groups that are already hard at work and generous just might be perfect leaders for new multiple-congregation alliances that promote and support new and existing programs.

Interested in where to start? Please look at one of Tutor/Mentor Institute's several strategy documents (accumulated from over 30 years of working knowledge) called, "How Faith Communities Can Lead Volunteer Mobilization For Tutor/Mentor Programs." And then contact us to discuss ways we can work together.

Merry Christmas to everyone!

1 comment:

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

This article on the Huffington Post illustrates the need for people with science, arts, math and technology backgrounds to connect directly with youth in high poverty neighborhoods. Without some sort of concerted marketing, it's not likely that there would be a distribution of volunteers and activities like these, in every neighborhood of the city.

Yet, members of faith groups include people with these skills. Imagine if the goal of a faith based initiative was to fill T/MC maps with places where science, math, tech and arts volunteers are inspiring kids to become the next generation of leaders in these fields?

This is the type of thinking we hope T/MC maps inspire.

Dan Bassill
Tutor/Mentor Connection