Sunday, February 20, 2011

Waiting for "Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman"

On 2/17/11, I took part in my second Community Night event for the Washington D.C. organization Turning the Page. The format is this:
  1. I show up 15 minutes later than requested but still 15 minutes prior to the official start (D.C. driving is so confusing in general and rush hour feels worse than New York’s; by the way, I didn’t see a sign in time, if there even is one, but yes, that street in front of the school is one-way.)
  2. They feed me.
  3. I speak for 30 minutes to an audience of families.
  4. The kids break into groups and go to different rooms for mentor-run activities.
  5. I answer questions from the parents for 30 minutes.
  6. I sign books that the organization generously purchased for every attending family.
  7. I try to find my way back home.
The school was Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary. This is a school that shows its heart in multiple ways. My favorite: when its principal introduced herself, she looked me in the eye and clasped my hand for at least 10 seconds, if not more.

One parent asked me what my book Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman has to do with that recent “Superman movie.” It soon became clear that she was referring to the (riveting, harrowing, and shamefully not-Oscar-nominated) 2010 documentary Waiting for ‘Superman,’ which is about the broken American education system and the hope that a “Superman” will arrive to save it. Though my book and the film have nothing to do with one another, it was a fitting setting in which to ask that question since some D.C. schools are famously among the neediest in the country.

The Turning the Page staff are saints. They are communicative. They are more than welcoming to their guests. When the parental questions were slow to start, they got things going with thoughtful questions of their own. That coaxed out others, and then it was one question upon another.

This is not just a good deed to TTP. They care about the people in these communities beyond an evening event several times a year. They know their names, their stories. They love their children.

And I think that
not the authors, or the free books, or even the free popcorn chicken and saladis what keeps people coming back and motivates them to get involved.

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