Five days ago I remember sitting nervously around a bowl of cherries at a fellow program leader’s kitchen table. Our conversation kept switching with the tense energy of those with much to say but too many thoughts to clearly express any of them. Have we figured out housing for everyone? How much money do we still need to fundraise? What time are we going to start tomorrow? Have you emailed the group the address yet?
Now I look around at a sea of young faces, all different races, different backgrounds and with different reasons why we decided to spend our summer working to create ingenuitive grassroots solutions to Oakland’s most challenging environmental and social problems. Despite our differences, I can confindently say that there is not a single person in the room who I wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to and confiding in. Moreover, there are many people in the room whom I’ve told more personal things about myself than I have to friends I’ve known for years.
This story of immediate friendship might be written off as “cute” just as Summer of Solutions is often written off as just another “summer camp.” But in many ways, I believe that the community we are creating is a model for how the rest of the world should function. Imagine if diverse groups of people, from all different income levels and racial backgrounds, came together to really think about the problems that their community was facing and then worked together to solve those problems? Sound idealistic? Maybe, but if you truly believe as I do that at some point all of these smiling faces sitting around me are going to take the knowledge that they’ve learned this summer to become even better leaders in their communities and country then perhaps a solutionary world isn’t that far off in the future.