BY DEBORAH MOON
Maps these days tend to be depressing – showing COVID deaths and cases being typical – so Mark Lawton recruited two Jewish students to help him create a tikkun olam map to share uplifting, positive stories from around the globe.
Launched April 1, by May 19 Mark and Aviv and Lior Poris had already posted 275 stories or videos from 100 countries on oneworld-stories.org, which has had more than 85,000 visitors. Mark believes the stories truly do help repair the world (tikkun olam).
“I use tikkun olam in the sense of doing good,” says Mark. “We are all in this together.”
Mark was working on a map project related to soccer when the pandemic broke out, and he wanted to do something to help. He recruited Aviv, whom he coaches in soccer, and his brother Lior to help. Mark is a teacher, creative writer, software developer and youth soccer coach. Aviv, 8th grade, and Lior, 6th grade, attend Beverly Cleary, Fernwood campus. The boys search for and post stories; they are also working on a video about the site.
“I’m grateful that positive news is out there and easy to find,” says Aviv. “It is so important for people to stay positive even when some bad things are going on in the world. It’s humbling to see how many people visit the website. … There’s so much variety to the positive things happening right now, and I love that.”
The site includes stories about neighbors helping neighbors, music and art, and caring for health-care workers. Some are funny. Some highlight animals and nature. The three Portlanders search online for stories around the world and invite visitors to suggest links and videos.
“My favorite story right now is from Stoke-on-Trent in England,” says Aviv. “A soccer club had people send in their videos of some young kids playing soccer. It’s a great story because it’s impossible not to smile when watching them play soccer.”
Stories from Portland include people putting stuffed animals in windows, and one about Damian Lillard’s $100,000 donation to the Trail Blazers’ COVID-19 relief fund and encouragement for his teammates to follow suit. A story from New Zealand notes the Tooth Fairy is an essential worker. There is a “truly uplifting” story from Israel about visiting parents on a crane.
Most stories are in English, but Mark, who is fluent in Spanish, also searches for and posts Spanish-language news.
“I know Mark has put some stories in Spanish on the map,” says Aviv. “I think it’s a great idea to put other languages on the map because then it truly is a worldwide site. We want to be getting stories and users from all across the globe.”
Mark, who has served on the boards of Congregation P’nai Or and Jewish Family & Child Service, works on the maps two to three hours a day.
“When I’m working on the map, it takes my mind off all the negative news,” says Mark.
He hopes those who explore the stories on the map will have the same experience.