When times get tough and tensions arise, good will is always a good option.
That's the thinking behind the Latino Project of Utah.
On Saturday, Hispanic people from all over the state will join for a Day of Service. The projects chosen are many and varied. In Tooele, for example, they will be cleansing city walls of graffiti. In Salt Lake City, the grave markers of veterans will be repaired. Logan, St. George, Ogden and other towns are involved as well.
The day is the brainchild of Tony Yapias. With all the negative publicity swirling around about immigrants, Yapias, Gonzalo Palza and others decided a little unilateral volunteer work may help to ease a few feelings. The plan is to dispel some of the misconceptions about Latino immigrants, provide an opportunity for organizations and individuals to show their support for the Latino community and begin to turn the tide of fear and suspicion around. Saturday may be the kick-off day, but Yapias hopes momentum will build for future projects.
To help get the word out, Latino Project contacted 25 Catholic parishes, 104 LDS wards and many Protestant churches in an effort to involve people who have shown a sturdy hand at handling volunteer efforts in the past.
Yapias currently expects several hundred members of the Latino community will participate. More, of course, would be welcome. But even fewer would be noteworthy and set some wheels in motion.
Some people, both inside and outside the Latino community, have been a bit skittish about the effort, feeling that Latinos are already associated with "service sector" jobs. Having them scrub walls would just reinforce their image as a rising underclass. Dignity would be compromised.
We say anyone who would look at a corps of people doing acts of kindness and think such things will probably never be persuaded to think generous thoughts about immigrants anyway. On the other hand, residents of the state who have been looking for more positive stories to counteract the negative buzz of anti-immigration groups will find one here.
Latino Service Day is a fine idea.
We urge all Utahns to get behind the Latino Project and make the day not only successful but memorable enough to take some of the edge off the sharp rhetoric being wielded over immigration. A Web site, www.utahpl.org, offers more details.