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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Make dinner, make friends, make peace

Betty Firth
Posted 6/9/21

I’ve spent quite a bit of time writing grants in the past few years, and it occurred to me that maybe grant writing is the answer to a lifelong dream of mine: world peace. Do you remember the …

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Make dinner, make friends, make peace

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I’ve spent quite a bit of time writing grants in the past few years, and it occurred to me that maybe grant writing is the answer to a lifelong dream of mine: world peace. Do you remember the quote from Robert Fulghum who wrote “Everything I Needed to Know I learned in Kindergarten”? He also attained some fame for his words quoted on many posters and bumper stickers: “It will be a great day when our schools have all the money they need, and our air force has to have a bake sale to buy a bomber.”
And I thought, “Well, the bake sale idea is never going to work. Those guys out buying bombers aren’t likely to know the difference between a brownie and a genoise, so trying to force them would just result in really bad bake sales.” But what if they were required to fill out grant applications to get the money they would need? This endeavor requires a pretty good command of the English language, which is not always one of the tip-top skills of those politicians grabbing for the mic and lobbying for their home district. Quantity and volume, yes, but not necessarily quality. Every question in a grant application allows only a limited number of words to address specific aspects of the funded activities, requiring the writer to be succinct and to the point. (See previous comment as to why this might be a challenge.)
Some pertinent questions could be: Will the profits from the sales of these weapons of destruction be distributed in a manner that will proportionately mirror the state’s geography and demographics?
Since the grants are funded with tax dollars, it is imperative that the employees of the applicant’s company also reflect the state’s demographics. Please document the jobs and levels of pay for all employees, including women, people of color, and older people.
Does the project have community support? Has the community been informed about the future use of these weapons, which might be against friends and relatives in their countries of origin? Please attach the press releases published with this information.
Funding decisions for grants are typically made by a panel comprised of people from various walks of life, interests, and skills. In the case of these Billions for Bombers grants, panel members should be comprised of artists, union members, teachers, people living on Social Security, and others who actually pay attention to where their tax dollars go.
I’m guessing that those politicians and military higher-ups would get so frustrated with the application process that they just might give up. Those who did persevere would face additional conditions before qualifying for any funds. They would need to meet at least five people from each country that bombs were to be used against. They would be required to engage in several activities with them, including 1) make a meal together with favorite foods from everyone, then sit down and share the meal; 2) read a bedtime story to at least three children in each country; 3) help build benches or Adirondack chairs together to put in public places; 4) sit together in public, greet passers-by, and absorb the daily life of the community.
My other brilliant plan for using tax dollars for world peace may be a bit more doable than the grant idea. In high school I was on the American Field Service (AFS) student committee, and my mom served on the adult committee to bring foreign exchange students into our school and community and to provide opportunities for local students to live and study abroad.
AFS began as the American Ambulance Field Service, a volunteer ambulance corps created in 1915. As described on their website: “After WWII, the AFS was transformed into an international secondary school exchange, volunteer, and intercultural learning organization with a vision: to help build a more peaceful world by promoting understanding among cultures.”
AFS-USA provided opportunities for people to live in other cultures to help them acquire the knowledge and skills needed to help create a more just and peaceful world.
That all made total sense to me. I applied and was not selected to go abroad, but I did get to know some foreign students who brought awareness of their cultures to our very small town. Years later, I was able to travel to some other countries. I always liked going to the local spots that the people who lived there frequented, like the library, the hardware store, and the markets that weren’t aimed at the tourists. Whenever possible, I would strike up conversations with the locals, and everyplace I went, I discovered that people everywhere have more in common than they have differences, that most people recognize that, as well as realizing that differences between governments do not reflect who the citizenry are or what they feel.
As wonderful as this travel is, the hitch is that a lot of people don’t get chosen as foreign exchange students and can’t afford to travel on their own. Or if they do, they’re too afraid to do anything but stay at the Marriott and eat American food.
So, I had the brilliant idea, which I really think we ought to implement if I can just convince Congress, that every citizen ought to have an expense-paid trip to another country, but they can’t stay at an American hotel or hang out with Americans. They would stay with a local family, cook and eat together, learn as much as they can about that family’s work, school, and local community. They would make an effort to find out what brings joy to the family and where life gets hard for them.
Then, when they return to the United States, they will give a presentation to at least three classes in the local schools about their experience, share some photos, local crafts, and favorite stories. Spreading the AFS philosophy throughout our citizenry, we would learn to live together to build bridges among cultures.
This program would cost a fraction of our military budget, and everyone would be the better for it. I think it could work. Ready to call Congress?

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