Sunday, September 09, 2007

An example of seeing the forest AND the trees

I've been fairly active this weekend. On Friday night I got some help from a few of the mechanics at The Bike Gallery on NE Sandy Boulevard. They recommended replacing the tires on one of the bikes Kilong and I are donating to indigent girls in North Portland. And they fixed the brakes on the other bike. With my pleading, the mechanics were able to knock ten percent off the cost of parts.

Then on Saturday morning, I met Kilong's family in their neighborhood and we all walked the bikes up the street to the girls' residence. They were very happy to have bikes! I also got to meet their brothers, little guys with a lot of energy who kept us company as Kilong showed me around part of his neighborhood. I found out that Kilong's wife Lisa later purchased bicycle helmets for the girls and their brother!

We walked around the New Columbia neighborhood, drank coffee at AJ Java, talked with another neighbor about elderly services and events, picked apples from a tree and generally had a good time in this jewel of a community. The coffee shop, AJ Java, I have since learned, has an owner dedicated to enriching the lives of disadvantaged children. The community has its own paid security force which is housed in a building that just blends in as just another house or apartment. Children are encouraged to keep the parks and greenspaces litter-free. Not with ugly signs saying not to litter, but through direct encouragement from community leaders who themselves are residents of the community. Knowing that the Liberian girls to whom we donated the bikes live in this neighborhood really lifts me up!

That was by far the highlight of my weekend. After that, I went to the Hoyt Arboretum where I am in the process of scanning all of their photographic slides into a computer so that the photos can be accessed electronically. I started earlier in the summer and am about halfway done. Hopefully I can finish the entire task by end of the year. We have also talked about how to use the images, such as extending their database to contain pointers to the image filenames. One of the horticulturists on the staff once told me about a larger arboretum that had a setup throughout their grounds where visitors could get information, read from a database, displayed on a handheld (bluetooth-enabled) device. That's cool and I'm sure the Hoyt will get there someday.

I've read through a few chapters in Jeffrey Sachs' The End of Poverty. He believes we can end 'extreme poverty' which is what about one billion people on our planet are experiencing. They struggle on a daily basis for survival and have not yet reached even the first rung on the ladder of economic development. I'm heartened that he firmly believes that we can eradicate this poverty within our lifetime, and not with a drastic alteration of our own well-being. I'll post more as I continue reading.

Finally, I saw the movie Hotel Rwanda last night. Besides feeling the shame at not trying to get our government to do something about that when it happened, I was struck by the courage of Paul, the real-life character who was Assistant Manager at a resort hotel in the country and helped save twelve-hundred lives by housing refugees in the hotel during the genocide. While watching the movie, I reflected on the fact that Kilong told me that the six-year-old Liberian boy in his neighborhood remembered and could tell what he experienced in his country before they had to leave it. These events brought home to me the tragedy of our times and how it is not just something we can sit back and shake our heads at before we switch the TV channel or sit down to another home-made meal.

A good example of seeing the forest AND the trees.

1 comment:

Greg Hughes said...

That's inspiring, Bob - Thank you for helping make the big world a little better (or you could look at it as making a little world a lot better). One of these days when we run into each other we can talk about this type of stuff. I have all sorts of thoughts and ideas, and (good or bad) I inherited the help-others-no-matter-what gene from my mom. So, plenty of stories to discuss. :)