Friday, February 7, 2014

The Power of Education

I was recently in San Diego for an education conference.  San Diego is such a beautiful city with beautiful weather.  I heard on the way from the airport to the hotel that the city has one of if not the largest population of homeless people.  The reason having little to do with the city and everything to do with the weather.  As I was exploring the downtown area I noticed a few homeless people sleeping on cardboard boxes and under sleeping bags. Maybe one or two about every block, especially early in the mornings.

One morning I wandered a little further on the outskirts of downtown.  I could see this unique looking building from my hotel window and I wanted to find out what it was.  After a while I turned the corner and saw this big, beautiful building.  It was the one I could see from my hotel window and it sure was farther away than it looked.

I turned the corner and looked up at the top of this unique building.  It was awesome!  As I looked down in front of me to see where I was going, I noticed dozens of homeless people laying on the ground in front of this building.  They were sleeping on the ground in the middle of the sidewalk, curled up against the building, sitting on the steps, or under a makeshift tent across the street with a tarp connected to the chain link fence.  I bet there were more than 50 homeless people in front of this one building.

As I walked along I looked up to see what kind of building it was.  I looked for a sign to see if it was some sort of bank, church, shelter or kitchen.  Then I saw it.  To my surprise this building was the San Diego Central Library.

It didn't take long for me to see the not so funny irony.  Dozens of homeless folks outside of the library and hundreds of non-homeless folks inside the library. Talk about the perfect picture to show high school students the importance of reading and education!  I wanted to take a picture of this moment in time but decided against it.  However, it will be a picture engraved in my mind forever.

As an educator, I have dedicated my life to helping people prepare for their future.  I don't know how to "cure" homelessness but I have a pretty good idea of how to prevent it.  I want to do my part to make sure my students have options and choices and don't have to end up homeless outside of the library or settling for a life they aren't proud of.

Now I don't pretend to know their stories or why they are homeless.  It could be a lack of education or maybe they all had high school or college degrees but got caught up in addiction, illegal activity, bad business in a poor economy, or some other unfortunate events.  Whatever their situation, my guess is there are some books in that library that could change the course of their journey.  Maybe I'm oversimplifying it.  Or maybe people make it too complicated.  Knowledge is power.  Education changes destinies.  Never stop reading and learning.  The deck may be stacked against you, all the more reason to read, learn, and work even harder.

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