Blog: Trevor Staples

When it comes to making progress on building the Ann Arbor Skate Park, fakies (moving backwards, in skating lingo) are not allowed. This week Trevor Staples, chairman of Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark, will be dishing on community service.

Post 1: It's Yours To Do

A while back, NPR did a series called This I Believe. Whenever I heard it, I said to myself, "I believe I'll change the station."

It's not that I disagreed with the premise that it's important to have things to believe in. It's just that many of the pieces were written in the format of, "I believe this, I believe that, I also believe etc…" Plus the title, This I Believe, just sounds pretentious and, well, NPRish. Why not just call the series, "I Believe"? At least then it sounds like English from a recent century. It's similar to when someone wears a shirt with an American flag waving on it that says, "We The People…" Yes, you sound fancy when you say it that way, but really, it's the year 2010. Old English is so 1110.

Having said that, I do think it's important to have something to believe in, something to have faith in. Not only should everyone have faith, but they should act on it to make the world a better place.

Some people were instilled with faith from childhood. Me, not so much. My hippie parents taught us that everyone's beliefs are ok, and that people believe many different things. This was great in the sense that it allowed me to meet lots of different people and find things I have in common with them, rather than avoiding people who are different from me. But, it also made it hard for me to figure out what is right, and what to have faith in. I'm not just talking about religion here. Although, I'm often jealous of those folks who have a deep, definite, certain faith in their religion. Seems they can easily summon up hope in the worst of times. I'm simply talking about something bigger than one's self. Something that matters more than self, or even family. Something that's important to a larger community. Our neighborhood, city, region, the world… whatever.

In the past few months I've had conversations with several people I know who say they are missing something. Of course, they're around my age (43), so this may be typical in the human lifespan. These folks aren't religious, but that's not the problem. They've worked and worked to make sure that they and their families are safe, fed, housed, and have some money in the bank. Problem is, they've gotten to the point of thinking of the day-to-day as not enough. I worked in restaurants for a dozen years after high school, and after a while got that same feeling. The importance of my job wasn't obvious. I haven't had those empty feelings since I became a teacher 11 years ago. When you're a teacher, your day-to-day work impacts the future in a more obvious way. With many jobs, it's not so easy to figure out how a real difference is being made in the world. I suggested my friends become volunteers of some kind.

The problem with volunteering is that it seems like a chore unless you really believe what you're doing is important or good. Many people know that doing good is right, and that they should volunteer in some way. Unfortunately, we tend to look to others and say, "Hey, that seems like a good cause. I'll volunteer there." But if you don't truly believe in the cause you're working for, it's going to feel like a burden, rather than something that's making the world a better place. How many TV shows have there been over the years where a character gets looked down upon because they only volunteer at the soup kitchen once a year: during the holidays. That's a cheesy example, but many people only think about volunteering, giving to food drives, donating cash or giving in other ways  from Thanksgiving on through to New Year's. To really make a difference, to do real Good, we have to make it a habit year-'round, enjoy it, and care.

Tomorrow: Yes, You Do Have a Care in the World