Great resources close to home

Published 12:34 pm Tuesday, May 24, 2011

In times of natural disasters such as the tornadoes that recently devastated Alabama, the earthquakes in Japan and the current threat posed by the rising Mississippi River we always seem to be able to come together to help our neighbors.

We make donations of time, money and possessions to help those in need.

No matter their identity, race or background we are there to lend a helping hand.

It is heartening to see the levels of altruism that human beings can muster in times of crisis. At the same time that I am impressed by our empathy and ability to put the needs of others before our own in these emergencies, I am struck with a disturbing question.

The question is, “How we can in times of normalcy treat each other with such disregard and at times outright hate?”

With more than 1,000 active organizations preaching hate based on race, religion, national origin and sexual orientation, not to mention the less-than-organized acts of bigotry that occur out of simple thoughtlessness, how can we turn the tide so that compassion wins the day?

One organization that is leading the way in this regard is celebrating its 40th anniversary. It is the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization that seeks justice for the most vulnerable members of our society.

It monitors activities of hate groups/domestic terrorists, takes legal action on behalf of victims of hate and injustice and provides free educational materials for teachers to help them “teach tolerance” so that students will reject hate.

And for those of us in Shelby County, this amazing resource is based just down the road in Montgomery.

Its approach of honoring those who worked for civil rights, providing education that helps people unlearn bias based on how we define ourselves as well as giving redress for those who are harmed by hate seems to touch all the bases.

The Southern Poverty Law Center activities are just one example of how we can work to ensure that humanity is characterized by compassion rather than hate, but it’s a very good one.

I urge you to check them out as one of your acts of charity in these difficult times.

Kimberly Barrett is the vice president of student affairs at the University of Montevallo.