Finding On-Ramps for Engagement
Posted 01/10/2013 11:42AM
“Your response can either be apathy or involvement,” was the challenge of Steve Marsh (McCallie ’95), when he spoke at IMPACT period on Thursday at GPS and described the lives of the 1 in 4 Chattanooga residents who live below the federal poverty level. “But,” he said, “If we believe that all are created with intrinsic dignity, then our view of Chattanooga shifts and we embrace those we once kept at arms’ length.”
Mr. Marsh, who is a banker by day and a blogger by night, admitted his own adolescence was marked by a lack of curiosity about other neighborhoods than his own and other people than his friends. “Chattanooga is a great city,” he enthused, “but what is life like in other neighborhoods” where people live with no reliable transportation, with high crime and a constant state of anxiety, where school is the source of hot meals, and your family needs your income, not for you to attend college?
Quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, “We will know one day that God made us to live together as brothers and to respect the dignity and worth of every man,” Mr. Marsh encouraged the students to move outside of their “comfort zone.” He suggested that they become involved in the lives of low-income residents and proposed volunteer opportunities at what he called “the on-ramps for engagement”: Northside Neighborhood House in the Hill City neighborhood, MVP After-School Program in St. Elmo, La Paz, which serves the growing Hispanic community, or Chattanooga Sports Ministries.
“There’s not just one avenue for involvement and engagement,” Mr. Marsh said, concluding by challenging the girls to “Use your gifts and talents on behalf of the inner-city.”