No. 649



Something has happened recently here in our community with regards to our “Bookcase for Every Child” project that confirms the truth of a famous quote by W.H. Murray. He said, “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans; that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then, providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would otherwise never have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, rising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would come his way. I have learned a great respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it … boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
What I am talking about is some help from a wonderful group of people that I never one time thought about for the first three years of our bookcase project. This group is the Faulkner County Retired Teachers Association. We are known here in Conway as the “City of Colleges,” having three institutions of higher education located here. We also have three different elementary and secondary school systems, our county schools and lots of teachers from other areas who retire here.
The end result is that we have the largest group of retired teachers, superintendents and professors in our state, with about 300 members. They meet each month and the president is Nancy Mitchell, who spent 31 years as a special education teacher in the Little Rock School District. It was almost by chance, or was it by providence, that we needed help in sorting a large number of books that were at a higher reading level to give to our Boys & Girls Club. After talking with Nancy, she made a proposal to their membership, and they agreed to help us. Just recently these retired teachers have also voted to adopt our bookcase project for the 2007-2008 school year, and many will be reading to the children at the Head Start Centers.
But the help does not end there. Nancy has also agreed to be our reading coordinator, with help not only from teachers but also coaches and student athletes from Hendrix College. She will be able to build on the good work done by Peggy McKaskle over the past three years. You would think this would be more than enough volunteer work from this fine organization, but I tell you God works in wonderful ways. To help other cities and towns around the nation develop their own “Bookcase for Every Child” project, Mickey Cox and I have written a “Primer” that contains a step-by-step outline of the project and also contains all the forms, newspaper articles and other information to complete each yearly cycle.
Who better to edit and make suggestions to make sure we were on track than a teacher who had worked with parents and children, from the same background as those we are helping? You guessed it, Nancy Mitchell. Mickey Cox is a master craftsman, and he has also written and produced the “Construction Plans” complete with photos and drawings to develop the assembly line concept. If you would like to have a “Primer” let us know. Contact information is on my Web site:
Here is the bottom line. There are many retired teachers in every community. These people are simply wonderful and a good number of them will help, if they are invited to become involved, and be an important part of the project.
At this point, please allow me to change gears for a moment. What is so exciting about this bookcase project is that it is a community project. It is not a government project, not a civic club project, not a church project but rather a community project where everyone gets involved. Really, it just takes one person who has creditability and leadership skills to get the project started. We have a wonderful man out in Dodge City, Kan., who read one of my columns and decided they needed a bookcase project. He built a sample bookcase, talked with some key people and got the project started. I might add they are going to be very successful.
My prayer is that you will see the need and join our volunteer army to improve literacy in your own community. These young, at-risk children in low-income families need our help if they are to become successful, productive, tax-paying citizens of the United States of America. There is a quote by Anthropologist Margaret Mead that really sums up what we are doing. She said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, this is the only thing that ever has.”

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To support literacy, buy his book: “Learning, Earning & Giving Back.”)