When you teach a class on active nonviolence, it's hard to stand by when an opportunity presents itself to your own kid.
My son's school has a pool that the YMCA had been running until this week. It was too costly, and the pool that had also been used to the elementary school's PE program, was closed indefinitely. The PTA and other school elements asked folks to show up at a City Council meeting with signs reading "SAVE OUR POOL," hoping that the City of Takoma Park would act.
He wanted to go! He made a sign, trying to decide whether to say "Our pool" or "The pool" (he's very literal) and just before rushing out of the house, I was trying to think about what could add a little umph to this action. What was symbolic? What would be attention getting?
SWIMSUITS! Let's go in our swimsuits! I asked my son if he'd do it, and this child, normally very concerned about what his peers think, immediately said, "Sure." Then I felt guilty and thought that if he was willing to do it, I should be. So we both donned suits, goggles, and towels. Not a lot of places to put a camera, so the picture was taken at home.
At the meeting, we were the envy of all the other activists. "Great idea!!" "We should have worn bathing suits!" "We're lamenting the fact that we didn't think of that!" We got a lot of approving smiles,even had our pictures taken. If there's been press, I'm sure we'd have been in the paper, but alas, I think no media was called. The City Council praised the twenty or so "young activists" who turned out (there's a "Young Activists Club at the school run by one of the city council members) and explained how they'd need cooperation from the Montgomery County Council and school board. This wasn't just a city decision. A couple dozen people, many kids, spoke on the matter, including my son!
The debrief on the way home emphasized WHY we'd worn the swim suits, how a visual communicates as much if not more than words, and how an action has to be visually appealing to attract media. And how most Americans haven't spoken in front of their city councils, let alone a 10 year old! I hope this helped him get over his fear, to see how easy action can be. And it would be nice to save the pool, too.