It seems like every time you open your mailbox or check your email, someone is asking you to donate money to a worthy cause. And maybe you gladly take out your wallet to help.
Maybe you’re more than happy to send in money to support no-kill animal shelters or feed a starving child in Africa. You might participate in the Avon three-day walk to raise money for breast cancer research, or donate to the World Wildlife Fund to help protect the Bengal tiger, the panda or the California condor. You might participate in Coastal Clean-up Day and devote your donation money to organizations focused on the prevention of clear cutting the rainforests of Brazil.
Your cause might be curing Lou Gehrig’s or muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis or Alzheimer’s so no one else has to suffer the diseases that have touched the lives of your family and friends. Maybe you feel that poverty and abuse and political oppression in all forms must be snuffed out before anything else can be addressed. Your passion could be protecting the arts—the visual, musical, and dramatic works that might never materialize if artists and art programs aren’t supported and protected.
Perhaps you sponsor efforts to preserve our historical landmarks and national parks for future generations. Or maybe the only time you pull out your checkbook is to support the political candidates you feel have the best chance at affecting positive change.
This is all very noble and admirable and inspiring. But no matter what cause moves you, it is not enough simply to send money to support an organization’s well-intended goals. Yes, the money you generously give will fund what is happening right now. It will support the people in the trenches doing the work that will prevent and aid and feed and sustain and fund and research and cure.
But who will be doing that work 20 years from now? Who will care enough or know enough or have the skills needed to fix the problems and save and protect and fight and reverse and repair?
It is not enough to send money to the causes you feel deeply passionate about. You must also support education. Why? Because the children of today will be the stewards of those causes tomorrow.
If you hope to protect the environment — the polar bears and whales, the rainforests and oceans — you must help instill in our young people an urgent commitment to do so. If you hope to see cures for breast cancer and leukemia and AIDS and lymphoma and Alzheimer’s some day, you must help arm our children with curiosity and skills in the scientific method of investigation. If you hope to preserve our national parks, historical legacies and the arts in America, you must guarantee that our children internalize a sense of pride in our country’s stories and a conviction that without the beauty of nature and of art, music and theater, life is less inspiring, less moving, less wonderful.
It is not enough to pledge to the campaigns of this year’s political hopefuls. If you honestly wish to support positive change in your town, state or country, you must also invest in the future: the children in our schools. By investing in our children today, we insure that our causes — our tigers, symphonies, rainforests, oppressed peoples and uncured diseases — will stand a better chance of being championed and protected and pursued and eradicated tomorrow.
If we are lucky, we might even be alive to see it happen.
Every community in Marin County has a nonprofit dedicated to reinstituting those programs being brutally cut from our public school systems. In Novato that organization is School Fuel, and on May 5 I will be riding my fourth School Fuel Tour of Novato to help preserve the quality of education in the public schools in our town. I invite all of you to walk or ride to support education in Novato.
If you can't participate on the day of the event, pledge a small donation toward our collective future. Our children, and all of the causes they will eventually choose to champion, thank you.
Heather Ophir taught English for 15 years at an independent secondary school in southern Marin, and even though she's moved from the classroom to the group exercise room to teach, her heart will always be with those professionals working each day to prepare our kids for the world.