California AIDS Ride and community service, part 1


        Earlier this month, I spent a week as a member of the volunteer crew on the California AIDS Ride. It was a six-day experience that saw 2,800 bicycle riders and 500 support crew wend their way down a 575-mile path from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

        This participation in community service confirmed some of my thoughts about the importance of such work. Here, then, are eight lessons that parents can convey to their children about the value of working with and for others:

  1. There is goodness in all people. Just give them an opportunity to express it. In the case of this ride, all participants gave up their time and put their lives on hold for a week so that they could work for a common purpose.
  2. We are all equal. One might expect that there would be a hierarchy in an event like this. Since the bicycle riders are the most visible, they could have acted or been treated as the "stars" of the week. But as a member of the food service crew, ladling out anything from oatmeal to gumbo, I felt that each of us was seen as equally important in our trek from one city to another.
  3. We are interdependent. To follow the previous point, I can say that there was widespread recognition that everyone on the event -- those handing out shower towels, the motorcycle patrol people, the crew loading and unloading gear and tents -- was not only important but needed. Furthermore, they were recognized as such.
  4. Cooperation has higher value than competition. Competition is the struggle to prove you’re better than the other. Cooperation is the struggle to make the world better - not only for yourself, but for the other as well. All the people involved in the ride were there to make the experience better for each other. We were part of a team, but not a team where some people win and some lose. It was joyous to be part of the team!

       The remaining four lessons will appear in next week’s column. Both columns will be available on my website.

Jay Davidson has been teaching in San Francisco since 1969; he teaches first grade. He is the author of Teach Your Children Well: A Teacher’s  Advice for Parents, which is available for $12.95 from He can be reached through his Web site at

His column appears Thursdays in the Daily News.


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