By Ryan Lazarus, Interim Chairman, Board of Directors

For every positive national headline about Chicago, there are countless negative ones. Chicago has become associated with rampant gang violence, corruption, and struggling public schools. My friends and family from around the country ask how I’m dealing with the recent uptick in murders in Chicago. What many of them don’t realize is Chicago is a massive place and most of the violence happens in neighborhoods I do not normally travel to. It’s easy for people like me who live/work downtown to embrace the bubble of safety and keep the daily horrors out of mind that happen just miles away. Most of my friends who live in Chicago also live in areas that are generally regarded as safe neighborhoods. When people are physically and psychologically disconnected from the struggles happening in the city, it shouldn’t be a surprise that people ignore the problems. They do not feel ownership of the problem even if they want to help. Out of sight, out of mind.

I was born with a bleeding-heart. I’m always looking for ways to help others. I realize though many people need to be drawn to help by a purely rational decision and not by emotion. People think that helping others is a selfless act but I disagree. I take the Randian approach on this subject. If you want to help someone because you like helping others or because you get something positive out of it, is it really “selfless”? I would argue that it is selfish and that is perfectly fine. Doing something selfish at the expense of others is where it becomes problematic.

I love Chicago. I’ve lived in the Chicagoland area my whole life and lived in the city itself for about 10 years. I love the architecture, the music, the arts, the food, the Lake, and the mostly friendly Midwest vibe. I want to continue to enjoy the best things the city has to offer but I also want to make sure everyone gets that same chance. As an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, I love Chicago’s booming startup scene. I believe it can continue to flourish and provide great employment opportunities for everyone…if the city, the WHOLE city, can become a safe and productive place to live. We need to give Chicago’s fast-growing startups like Spot Hero and Outcome Health a reason to stay and continue to expand. We need to encourage Fortune 500 companies to set up major offices here like Google did in the West Loop. We can’t keep using the excuse that people are moving simply because of the weather.

When you support an organization like ours, you help ensure that kids get a quality education and an opportunity for quality employment. You ensure that they will not wander down the dark path of gang life just to get by. It’s much more expensive for the city to investigate and incarcerate, then it is for us to educate. The benefits of keeping kids off the streets and helping them get a good job compound. Unfortunately, if we don’t find ways to stop violence, the negatives can also compound. The fate of our city could go either way. I’m very optimistic that Chicago can become the premier city of the globe but it will only happen if we all act together. If you only care for yourself, then you need to learn to care for your city because your city affects you whether you like it or not. As Dr. Martin Luther King once famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” It doesn’t fundamentally matter if this message pulls on your heart strings or purse strings. I simply want people to realize that we are all in this together. Go ahead, be “selfish” and donate your time/money to Ryan Banks Academy today.

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