Next week I’ll be in Minneapolis, presenting at the National Service-Learning Conference, a gathering that brings together educators, students, authors, and internationally renown voices (such as this year’s keynote speaker, Bishop Desmond Tutu) to discuss hands-on social action and civic involvement for young people and adults, and what it means to make your voice heard in the world, for the better.

What is service-learning? To quote from the National Youth Leadership Council’s site:

Picking up trash on a riverbank is service. Studying water samples under a microscope is learning.When science students collect and analyze water samples, document their results, and present findings to a local pollution control agency … that is service-learning.
Cathryn Berger Kaye (author of The Complete Guide to Service-Learning) invited me to be part of a writers’ session along with Janet Tashjian, so I’m looking forward to a lively discussion, with book signings to follow. I’ll be presenting solo as well: “Fun Will Save the World,” about the necessity of joy as the engine of our work – the more challenging it is, the more you’ve got to love it, or it simply won’t be possible to go on.

The fact of the conference itself is a good reason to feel encouraged: about young people, their ingenuity and energy; about the adults who care for them, teach them, and learn from them. Our world seems so mired, these days, in a sad stasis of conflict – it’s worthwhile to remember that the wheels of change grind slow, like Longfellow’s mills of God, but they do move, and they leave a mighty path.