on the edge: Family Homelessness in AmericaIt worked!  on the edge, the “Hear Us” film telling the story of seven homeless moms and their children, will be shown on PBS stations across the nation on or around Mother’s Day this year.

On Diane Nilan’s website for Hear Us, on FaceBook, on this site and others, we gave directions and asked you to email and call your PBS stations, and enough of you did to persuade Public Broadcasting to show this award-winning film.  (Read the Call to Action HERE.)

Congratulations to Diane Nilan, to Hear Us (her national organization giving voice and visibility to homeless children), to Laura Vasquez, the director/editor of on the edge, and to all who helped make this possible.  It has been making the rounds of colleges and universities, churches, other community organizations, and film festivals.  People who have seen the film now number in the thousands.

That number now jumps into the hundreds of thousands—potentially even into millions.  The 2010 campaign to support public radio and public television found that the average monthly audience for public media was 170,000,000.

Audience size, budget size, total social impact—stats like these mislead anyone who wants to help change the world for the better.  Today is the day of “play big or go home” thinking.  But I believe anything one does to better a social situation, or even the situation of just one person, is worthwhile.

A former student of mine, Esther Benjamin, is now director of operations for the entire Peace Corps.  Before that she was with a company partially funded with around $450,000,000 of Gates Foundation money.  She had to raise $500,000 to match it, and took the challenge in stride.  No problem.  Yet during a talk a few years ago at North Central College, a faculty member, David Gray, said this during the Q & A:  “We’re not like you,” he began, which got a good chuckle from the audience.  “What can more ordinary people do to help make the world a better place?”

I’ll never forget Esther’s answer.  She began by saying that her children started by helping in the local homeless shelter, then said, “Who knows in the big, big picture of things what will finally be the most worthwhile thing.”  My son Rick Guzman, now doing great things in community development in Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner’s office, used to say, “Change the world could just as well mean helping to ‘change the world’ of one person.”

I like to say—only half-jokingly—that Jesus started by calling on just one person, who went and got his brother.  Now he had two, and that two never got bigger than 12.

My wife, Linda, is on the Hear Us board of directors.  When one of the organizations we’ve been following and trying to do a little to help suddenly gains an audience more vast than we ever imagined, we stop to catch our breath and feel good for a while.  As they should, congratulations flow all around.  But despite the prospect of more people seeing a very good film, we all know—Diane Nilan especially—that finally we have to make contact and do work every day, one city, one neighborhood, one situation, one family, one person at a time.

GO TO the Hear Us MAIN PAGE on this site.
Listen to a radio documentary about Diane Nilan.

RETURN to Social Change main page.

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