________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 17 . . . . April 18, 2008


Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World.

Craig Kielburger & Marc Kielburger.
Mississauga, ON: John Wiley & Sons Canada, 2006.
308 pp., pbk., $18.99.
ISBN 978-0-470-15364-2.

Subject Headings:
Helping behavior.
Self-actualization (Psychology).
Common good.

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.

Review by Carolyn Crippen.

**** /4


I believe that every journey from Me to We is as unique as each one of us, filled with twists and turns that lead in directions we might never have expected. I know that as more and more people choose to embark upon this journey, our actions in turn encourage others to find their own routes.

When I think about the future, I imagine all of our paths converging, forging a new direction for our society.  As I look around today, I can see that this process has already begun.

The Canadian Kielburger brothers, Craig and Marc, have co-authored this “call to action.” It is a moving, serious, yet hopeful book that invites us to volunteer and contribute to building a better, caring society. It addresses the moral imperative. The text is carefully crafted to tell the brothers’ own stories about the creation of the international Free the Children organization and the Leaders Today program to develop youth leaders. A rationale and the foundation for volunteerism and the importance of empathy and gratitude are carefully explained in the early chapters. 

     The contents incorporate elements of interest to the reader: first, we hear the voices of Craig and his older brother Marc as they tell their personal stories of service to others. Next, short autobiographies of many well known, and some not so famous people, are included. Archbishop Desmond Tutu tells of the importance of interdependence; Dame Jane Goodall writes fondly of the inspiration and caring exemplified by her mother; and Oprah Winfrey speaks of the joy she gets from bringing happiness to others. Such stories are inspirational and appealing.

     In addition, each of the 13 chapters includes a section: “Start Now!” This section encourages the reader to begin journaling and recording personal ideas. It is directive and helpful in sorting out issues and opinions. Teenagers may find these activities particularly valuable as they work through the book. The candor within the book is refreshing and should connect to middle and high school students in particular.

     Craig relates one early experience in Thailand and working with those infected and dying from AIDS:

Fighting back intense sorrow, I thanked the nurses for what they had taught me and told them I was going home. After one short day, I was calling it quits.

I called my parents, who arranged for my flight back to North America. It was an incredibly difficult phone call because it meant I had failed. Up until this point, I had been a cocky teenager who thought he could accomplish anything. At that moment, I knew I couldn’t. I had to admit I was in over my head. I imagined people back home would ask why I was back so quickly. I was already embarrassed.

     Another story is that of a 14-year-old boy, a student leader, in war-torn Sierra Leone and how he stood up to the military who was recruiting children as soldiers. It is brutally honest and gut wrenching:

When Santosh cane up on stage, he stood on his toes so all his classmates could see him. He took a deep breath, and shouted, “Mr. Rebel Commander, my name is Santosh. Our village believes in peace. Please leave now!”

The rebel commander was incensed that this young boy would dare to give him such an order. He took out his huge machete and mockingly asked whether Santosh preferred a “short sleeve” or a “long sleeve.” Without waiting for an answer, he brought his machete down on his right hand, chopping it off. With a cruel smile, he then handed the boy his severed hand.

     Today some high schools are introducing the concept of “volunteerism” as part of credit requirements for graduation. It seems to me, that a book such as this could provide a rationale and logic for this initiative. Members of student councils and faculty advisors could also benefit from the suggestions outlined in ways to serve local and third world communities. It is important to state that Me to We should not be delegated to youth alone; adults may find considerable food for thought too.

     Craig and Marc remind us,

     The Me to We philosophy is essentially a choice of how we live our lives. We have
the freedom to choose how we respond to the worst of human situations, as we do to the minor problems of everyday life. Every time we witness pain, need, or injustice, we are challenged to be true to our values, and to fulfill our most basic human instinct to help others. And at the core, what moves us to act is love. While love may be an overused word, it is clearly an underused action. The Me to We philosophy seeks to connect this imbalance, bringing us back to what is fundamentally human.

Highly Recommended.

Carolyn Crippen is the Assistant Dean of Education (Post Baccalaureate Diploma in Education) at the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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