A perfect storm of connections

Elinor Tatum | 4/12/2011, 4:37 p.m.

Not feeling very well on Tuesday morning, I dreaded the idea of going to another stuffy dinner. My head was pounding, and I had not yet written my editorial. It was one of those days when you get most of what you need to get done accomplished, but only just. By around 3 p.m., I was done. I felt I couldn't do another thing, and I did not want to go to this dinner that I hardly knew anything about. But when my colleagues said just don't go, I said that was impossible. I knew it was going to be a small, intimate gathering where the hosts had planned out each table meticulously.

Then my colleague asked, "Do you have any chocolate?" and I replied, "In the box over there. Get me one, too." After I had that piece of chocolate, my mood lightened and I realized that I had not had any caffeine that day and I'd been suffering a caffeine headache that the chocolate cleared. So then, bright and refreshed, I made my way to this dinner, now excited for the possibilities.

As I climbed up the steps of the magnificent club where the dinner was held, I was greeted by the three hosts, all of whom I had met before. I moved around the room talking about Sweden, sailboats, horses, education, archives and newspapers.

There were many people that I knew and many that I would get to know much better during the evening, but from the onset you knew this was a group to reckon with. Within the room there was change going on all around. While social in nature, there was an air of responsibility and a need to make sure that there was really a chance for future generations.

As we sat at our tables, five tables of eight, we began the small talk that those that do not know each other do. The conversation moved from topic to topic, but for some reason it always came back to education. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that we had two educators at the table, along with two communications professionals, a physician, and an executive at a foundation that focuses on education and a child psychologist.

Books were central to the discussion. We discussed how important it was for children to have books in their hands. We talked about the need for parents to learn that reading to their children was of the utmost importance and that books could forever enrich children's lives.

One of the women at the table brought up a program that takes place in Brooklyn called "Wash and Learn." It brings books into Laundromats and has volunteers read to and with the children while their parents do the wash. Something so simple, but yet so impactful can change a child's life.

Dudley, who was sitting next me, began to discuss the challenges of raising a Black child with special needs. He and his wife navigated a system that many just give up on to make sure their child got the education he deserved and now have a son who will be able to fully participate in society. I told them that they needed to write the book about their experiences. They said they had been told that many times, but now, I think they will. They can help so many other families navigate through that difficult process. They are an