A conversation with author Mark K. Shriver
By Steven Boyd Saum
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Mark K. Shriver teamed up with illustrator Laura Watson on 10 Hidden Heroes, published by Loyola Press, which aims to help children develop counting skills while learning ways to make the world a better place. It shows how acts of kindness and generosity can be found all around us.
Shriver has served as president of Save the Children Action Network and now leads Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Maryland as its first lay president. He is the author of Pilgrimage: My Search for the Real Pope Francis and the memoir A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver. Here are edited excerpts from a conversation with Mark Shriver and WorldView editor Steven Boyd Saum.
Why this project?
I’ve written a couple books centered on the idea of goodness — how to find and celebrate goodness and spiritual gifts of joy. As a culture, we celebrate power, money, and prestige. What we should be celebrating are folks doing important and good work in our communities every day. This book is a fun way of teaching kids how to count, but also having kids have conversations with their parents or grandparents or aunts or uncles — and readers of all ages — to see: Why is a Peace Corps Volunteer a hero? Why is a Special Olympics athlete a hero?
We should be celebrating people who are dedicating two and a half years of their lives — and in many cases the rest of their lives — to pushing for peace and understanding between human beings. Maybe we’ll think about what our real definition of who a hero is.
We should be celebrating people who are dedicating two and a half years of their lives — and in many cases the rest of their lives — to pushing for peace and understanding between human beings.
On the opening pages, you have hidden heroes nursing people back to health.
We started on this project during the beginning of COVID-19, in 2020. There are nurses and doctors, and we celebrate them. But also the custodian in the hospital, who keeps the place clean and functioning, needs to be celebrated. Firefighters setting up car seats so children are safe need to be celebrated.
What I’m afraid will happen in this country is, while we celebrate first responders and health care workers, as COVID dies down, people will go back to not paying enough attention to those who are keeping our communities together.
A book like this seems deeply connected to the work you’ve done over many years with Save the Children, which has focused on helping the youngest and most vulnerable.
Save the Children is in the book as well. A lot of Peace Corps Volunteers come back from serving overseas, and they work with USAID, Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services, and other organizations doing wonderful, important work.
Now at Don Bosco Cristo Rey, we’re working with minority kids, making sure they graduate from high school and can be the first in their families to graduate from college. Students work one day a week at a job; it helps them get access to networks many people take for granted, and exposes them to a different world. They’re excited about their futures. That gives me hope. Ultimately, I believe in God, so I believe that goodness will win out.
What I’m afraid will happen in this country is, while we celebrate first responders and health care workers, as COVID dies down, people will go back to not paying enough attention to people who are keeping our communities together.
What would you say to Peace Corps Volunteers and returned Volunteers during this time?
There was no one that my father liked talking to more than Peace Corps Volunteers and returned Volunteers. He was so proud of the work Volunteers do all around the world — and not just teaching English or building a water system. Really, world peace is about human connection. That got my dad so fired up it was crazy.
He didn’t believe in might is right. He had fought in a war. He believed in the power of peace, and he believed in the power of human interaction, in trying to work together.
Some people want to have a building named after themselves. My father never talked about that. Peace Corps Volunteers, Head Start teachers — that’s a living legacy, which is so much more powerful. This book, which we began working on at such a difficult time, is a small gesture to say thank you to the heroes who include Peace Corps Volunteers. Who they are — and the work they do together with community members around the world — that should be celebrated!
This interview appears in the Spring-Summer 2022 edition of WorldView magazine.
Steven Boyd Saum is the editor of WorldView.