Writers Giving Back

GfdwallpaperToday is Global Day for Darfur.

You probably haven’t even heard about this event.  I hadn’t.  And that is because the traditional media is too busy wringing their hands over an economic crisis that supposedly nobody saw coming (um, can you say duh?) and gleefully stoking the battle between Obama and Hilary.  And I’ve been too busy reading TMZ and A Socialite’s Life.  I mean, c’mon, what’s important here?

I believe in tithing, but honestly? its more because its supposed to increase one’s abundance than anything else.  Oh, I have a bleeding heart, that is for sure, and I can get as upset and outraged about things as the best of them.  But then I just go back to my own little world and click on a gossip blog to see what’s going on. It’s so much easier to find out what car accident Britney has been in, then learn about what’s going on in Africa.

But this week a combination of factors has jolted me out of my complacency.  As I may have mentioned before, I’m a huge American Idol fan.  I know.  It’s really embarrassing.  It’s actually the only show I watch on TV.  This week, of course, I watched Idol Gives Back.  I swore I wasn’t going to sit through the whole damn thing, but of course, I did.

No, I didn’t rush to the phone to donate, but it did get me thinking–how do we as writers give back?  Isn’t it our job to bear witness, to cover events?  If we are actively involved in them, then how can we be objective?  (Of course, blogging and the internet is drastically changing the reporting of news, which I think is wonderful, and most journalists I know think is terrible.)

Most of the time as a writer, I hang back.  I feel like it is my job to be a
witness to events, not take part in them or cover them.  That the best
thing I can do is wield the power of the pen.  And, in truth, there is quite a bit of validity to this attitude.  Besides, physics has already proved that merely observing something changes something.  So, simply writing about problems we are concerned about does have an impact.

The other thread in my brain this week has been the brain itself.   For an assignment, I’ve been writing about brain health and how exercising it can prevent dementia.  The brain loves to learn and learning positively affects it, creating new brain cells and carving out new neural pathways.

So I’ve realized that reading gossip blogs or the "Most e-Mailed Odd News" on yahoo does not count as new learning, and I’ve set myself a challenge of learning more about Africa.  I read in a book years ago that all it takes is half an hour a day to become an expert on something.  Of course, I can justify not doing this by claiming that I don’t have an extra half hour a day and if I do, I’d just as soon spend it working on my novel, thank you very much.

But there is all that time the small amount of time I spend reading the gossip blogs.  All right, all right, I’m giving it a try.  I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, here are some links I’ve found already (see, I spent my half hour yesterday reading):

BBC News has excellent resources on Africa.

All Africa is an amazing resource.

Be A Witness: Google Earth Darfur  You can see Darfur on Google Earth!

What’s Up on Planet Earth is a very woo-woo look at why Africa matters, but Karen Bishop has collected a lot of good links.

And, in the amazingly wonderful synchronistic way the universe has, this very morning the Oregonian had a review of a book called The Translator, about  Daoud Hari, who served as a translator for journalists in Darfur, and apparently it  tells not only his personal story but gives an excellent rundown of the whole complicated situation.  So, of course, I have to go buy it (and read it in the comfort of my middle-class home).

While we are on the topic of writers giving back, tell me what your ways of giving back are.  Let me know about worthy
causes I might not be up on.  I’d love to hear about things related to
writing, creativity, or literacy.  But of course, I’d also really love to hear about any of your favorite causes.

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3 Comments on "Writers Giving Back"

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Jenny
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I try to give back by listening to what others have to say, and doing what is within my power to make them happy. I blog and write out of a sense of wanting to contribute to the arts and to society. Also I reared four children who are not only productive but smart and happy too, and one of them aspires to do some writing, so I figure if I mentor her I will be giving something to the world. Thanks for this thought-provoking post, Charlotte!

Jen
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I volunteer with the Higher Achievement program in DC (http://www.higherachievement.org). Last year, I had three 8th-graders for Literature, and this year it’s two 6th-graders in math. My pet cause is CARE, which is accessible from the front page of my blog (column on the far right). I also like Kiva (www.kiva.org), which does microlending.

Charlotte
Guest

Thanks, Jen and Jenny for your comments.

Maybe I better start a typelist of worthy organizations! I did forget to mention that I support Kiva, which I love also. It is so much fun to get notification that another installment on the loan has been paid off. I’ll check out CARE and Higher Achievement, they both sound excellent.

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