Thank you, Dr. Janice Matthews Rasheed, for your recent letter [More jobs is only part of the solution, Viewpoints, Sept. 7]. You clearly identified the fact that for marginalized communities, the problems and the solutions are multifaceted and long-lasting.
I have observed over my long life, that life comes to us all in two ways: by chance (fate) and by choice, and many of us have had a great deal better luck on the chance side. Taking my own situation into account, I can see that I was born to privilege in many ways: a citizen of the United States; white; with parents who taught me a great deal about life, love, responsibility, options, religion and more; and who persevered through very tough times.
I always knew I would go to college (and it was much cheaper in my day), and I chose a career where jobs were plentiful at the time. I made choices of careers and locations — not all of which worked out — one of which led to my relocation to Oak Park, a community to which I relate.
Conversely, if one is born into a community where college or technical school is a pipedream (if even considered), a choice is made to have children while very young (as many peers are doing), no jobs are available to those with limited learning, transportation is an issue, mentoring is seldom available, and gangs, drugs and guns are epidemic, the likelihood of being able to move into mainstream society is seriously compromised.
Parents try hard to provide and love their children deeply, but they are not always able to keep them safe, and we all mourn for those who are lost. I am condemning no one here, but these are facts, and society cannot ignore them.
At the same time, I find myself overwhelmed with the options for helping to change the dynamic. I want to know more about the families in Austin, but I won’t be moving there to share their experience. I want to help stem the tide of gun violence, but I won’t be going to Austin alone to show that I am unafraid because I am a realist.
Instead, like many, I am trying to figure out how best to help. I will continue to support my church, which is very involved in all these issues. But I also hope to sift through the many requests for donations from the various gun violence groups, the racial coalition-building groups, the tutoring and mentoring groups and find one for each area of need.
I can contribute dollars and time, make signs, take walks, meet with residents of Austin, lobby the state and federal legislators — but I can’t save everyone. I know that many in Oak Park are already involved in these issues, and I am sure many are facing these same choices!
Please, if you are involved in one of these groups, make the case for why yours is the best. I need to know! If you are not involved, would you join me in choosing one? As people of good will, let’s find the things we can do to help improve lives.
Janet Haisman is a volunteer and resident from Oak Park.