Ordinary People who are Changing our World

A new book by
Allison Silberberg

Each time a man stands up for an ideal,
or acts to improve the lot of others,
or strikes out against injustice,
he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope,
and crossing each other from a million different
centers of energy and daring,
those ripples build a current which can sweep down
the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

Robert F. Kennedy
University of Cape Town, South Africa, 1966

This just- released book is both a source of inspiration and a gold mine of useful information that arrives during the most severe economic downturn in our country since the Great Depression in the 1930s. Author Allison Silberberg is a very careful observer, a skilled researcher and a clear writer. She has a long and productive career in helping the less fortunate with both her individual charity and her very effective advocacy. She has over several years carefully documented the careers of 18 individuals that she identifies as visionaries. She was inspired by the above quote from Robert F. Kennedy and her book shows that each of these persons not only accomplished a great deal but their courage and fortitude inspires others and creates incentives that collectively overcome great inequities in our society.

One of her visionaries is Tom Lewis, a retired District of Columbia police officer, who after 20 years in the line of duty decided he wanted to do something for children in need. In 1990 he started the Fishing School. His mission was to bring hope, skills and belief in oneself to economically disadvantaged children and youth in North East Washington DC. He named his mission the Fishing School based upon the adage that if you give a person a fish he will have one meal but if you teach him to fish he can eat for life.

What makes Allison’s book both inspirational and a meaningful read is her sensitive development of each visionary’s personal struggles. Tom Lewis is and example when he said, “I had dropped out of school in 10th grade. I was one of 16 children. My mother and father didn't have any education. My mother was trying to keep meat on the table but we didn't always eat. I went hungry a lot of days.”

This book is inspiriting in my ministry because it documents the power of hope. I started life at the very depths of the Great Depression. On March 30, 1933 our family gathered around the radio to hear the inauguration of a new president. I can still hear President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s voice saying, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” He did not give us desperately needed food or shelter or a job for my unemployed father and mother. These would have been individual fish. By giving us hope he helped make us fishermen.

For those of us who still have resources, employment and family support and want to help others, the book is a great source of where to go for information. In one sense, this is a textbook for would be caregivers.

This economic collapse has brought suffering to all of us, but it is infinitely more punishing for those who even in times of prosperity live on the very edge. Allison Silberberg has spent her adult life documenting the darkness in these lives and with this book she keeps lighting little candles.

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