Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Doing Good, Thanks

On Sunday, I was reading the little USA Today insert that comes with the local daily. Usually, I just scan the inside front cover, where readers/publicists write in questions like, “I sure enjoyed watching Julianna Margulies on E.R.! What’s she up to these days?” I kept flipping and came across the paper’s Leap Day event: The story goes, you have an extra day during leap years—why not spend February 29 volunteering?

Later that day, I started reading A.J. Jacob’s The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. Jacobs winds up both tithing ten percent of his income and trying through his actions to help his fellow man (in many ways, including working at a soup kitchen). It’s a lovely book—funny, smart, and sometimes poignant—and, in some ways, I think he tackled his bizarre project for the same reasons I tackled mine in Practically Perfect.

Sunday was also the day my piece in the Post came out, and I started getting lots of emails, some kudos and some, uh, not. The anti-kudos mostly said things like individualism is vital to living a good and solvent life. And I know that, if things are going smoothly, this philosophy works just fine. But I guess what I was trying to get at—and do get at in the book—at is that our country individualism has become Xtreme! (if I can get all nineties on you), and to temper it, we have to recognize that there is such a thing as luck and that there is such a thing as effort on behalf of a group.

Which is what both the USA Today insert and Jacobs’s Bible project are about. (See? Full circle, baby!!)

Anyhoo, speaking of effort on behalf of a group: I didn’t know what a community organizer was until I met one toward the end of my quest. Turns out, they’re people whose job are to connect others in hopes of achieving some goal. (Joe Szakos and Kristin Layng Szakos have written a book about community organizing, called We Make Change.) Joe’s the director of the Virginia Organizing Project, and I love feeling connected by working with this group. I haven’t done it in a while. I need to get off my duff.


Julianne said...

Thanks for the recommendations. You're a reading superhero! I'm lucky if I can finish a book a month.

Is your piece in the Post available online?

Devra said...

I have the same question about the Post. I no longer read it, but would be willing to go read your piece because I like you way more than I like the Post.

Devra and Aviva said...

okay, now I have had coffee and it's not so early in the morning and I realized you already posted the link on your blog.

My pre-coffee alias needs to be Moe Ron.