Bertolt Brecht was an influential German poet and playwright whose most famous works are Mother Courage and Her Children and, in collaboration with composer Kurt Weill, The Threepenny Opera. Brecht insisted that a playwright should both make his audience aware of social problems and move them to bring about change. Brecht's simple poem, "A Bed for the Night" tells of a man who procures beds for the homeless by standing on a corner and "appealing to passersby." This seems like a good deed, so why does the narrator tell us that "it won't change the world"? Are we to be glad that "a few men have a bed for the night" or despair that "it will not shorten the age of exploitation"? The poem marks a rich beginning for conversation about the relation between philanthropic giving and social change.
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How do we identify desired outcomes? Who decides?What are the limits of my ability to help or serve?Must action, to be meaningful, always lead to social change?What kind of change am I making? What kind of change does the world need?
Civically Engaged Reader