My son Nate is eight. He is into Minecraft and basketball, and not so much homework and vegetables. Tonight, when I picked him up from basketball practice, he asked me, "Can we go get the coins, Mom?"
I'd almost forgotten about the Ziploc bags filled with coins in his room. I didn't forget hat tonight were were going to buy Christmas gifts for the kids at the YWCA, but would have just as easily taken out my debit card. He wanted to bring the coins that he had saved all year -- rewards from small chores, tooth fairy money, and what he found in between my parents' seat cushion. So, with his savings, we marched off to the Publix coin sorter, where he dumped bag upon bag into the machine. With a smile, he grabbed the receipt: $121.01. He was proud.
Filling the cart with Barbies and Transformers, Uno and Chutes and Ladders, I was proud too. It was his money and his choice.
When I told him the YWCA didn't have enough toys to help needy kids, something shifted in him. So, with Play Dough and Candyland, he'll help bring a little happiness to a place of restoration.
This morning, when I woke up, I was compelled to send a note to my friend Mallary. Mallary runs Images of Voice and Hope (ivoh), a non-profit with a tagline of "Media as Agents of World Benefit." From their mission statement:
"At Images & Voices of Hope (ivoh), we believe that media can create meaningful, positive change in the world. Our global community includes journalists, documentary filmmakers, photographers, social media specialists, gamers and more. Our common thread as a nonprofit is the desire to effect positive change through our work in media."
They do this in many ways you can read on their website, including publishing stories about how the media can have a "positive, meaningful impact on society," stories about people and communities rebuilding after tragedies and struggles.
Once I was the reporter that covered tragedies, sitting with victims' families after unspeakable events. Although that seems like many lives ago, I still wonder what happened to some of those families weeks, months, years later. Historically, the media isn't interested in the "after" of these incidents. In this 24/7, Internet world, the churn is even more rapid.
Enter ivoh. ivoh supports journalists, filmmakers, and others, who are compelled to tell stories that go against the grain of our limited attention span. Again, from their site:
"We’re currently exploring Restorative Narratives: stories that show how people and communities are learning to become resilient in the aftermath of tragedy, loss, and other difficult times. These stories locate the opportunity in disruption and may expand the time horizon of a situation and move beyond questions of “what happened?” to questions of “what’s possible?”"
This speaks to my journalist's heart, and to me personally. Don't we all have a restorative narrative?
So, today I made a donation in the name of my colleagues to support ivoh's Restorative Narrative Fellows. The initiative funds five exceptional journalists, giving them a stipend to tell restorative narratives (that otherwise might go unheard) in their communities. Among them, Ben Montgomery a Tampa Bay Times reporter, and Alex Tizon, a University of Oregon professor. (You can read more about the fellows on ivoh's site.)
My colleagues don't need more coffee cups and notepads (I mean, we're journalists -- good on both counts). I thought a much more meaningful gift would be to support the ivoh Fellows -- men and women who are blazing a trail in a new genre. Through their indigogo campaign, IVOH is working to raise $25,000 by Dec. 31 -- just 21 days. So far, they have raised $2,510 [update on 12/22: they have raised $7,535]-- a ways to go in short time.
This year has been one of heartbreaking news, news that I will not recount here. You see it on TV, on your Twitter feeds, in the publications you read and the radio you listen to. I ask: Who will tell the stories that affect change? I believe ivoh is leading the way in supporting folks who have the conviction -- and talent -- to do that.
So if you're a journalist, a writer, a person who has ever worked in a newspaper, magazine, radio station, a filmmaker, photographer -- or one who believes that powerful storytelling can change lives, I challenge you to join me in supporting ivohto meet their goal to fund the fellows by year-end.
If that's not your conviction, OK. I would still say, like Nate, gather those coins and find them a home. We can help people tell better stories together.