Make a difference

I’m getting on in my years and some of my memories are starting to fade.  Quick: who was your first-unit seventh grade P.E. coach?  That’s what I thought. But I do remember the time Briana lugged fun-fetti cake to my Chem class on my 16th birthday, and the time Alison called to see if I was ok after spraining my finger in a game of speed-away during eighth grade P.E.  I’m a big fan of random acts of kindness. The feelings that go with those — when you’re on the receiving or the giving end — are pretty strong. 

It’s an interesting time of the year.  The burden of AP’s has been lifted for a lucky batch of us, for seniors the year is winding down to the tune of “Graduation (Friends Forever)” by Vitamin C, and the weather has finally started to make us smile. There is sometimes a sense of anti-climax after a rapid succession of all-consuming tests that leaves the school hanging, as if we’re not sure where to go next. After you crash and allow your brain to seep out your ears in front of the last five episodes of “Lost” and “Gossip Girl” that you Tivo’d, I’ve got a proposition for you.
When you have a moment to breathe and take your eyes off the books in front of you, there’s a lot going on in the world.

First, just look around campus. To start with, compliment the most conveniently located Scene Monkey on their latest uproariously funny performance. Little comments go a long way in these last few days.

Do something nice for your friend’s birthday — especially if it was four months ago. Write something heartfelt in a friend’s yearbook, or say hi to someone – bonus points if they’re in another grade. High score for someone you’ve never seen before (you know it happens all the time).

And then, as we take our leave, or a briefer hiatus, from the intricately woven web that is our school community and gradually ease ourselves into the greater community, wake up and really look around. 

Twelve and a half million houses damaged and 28,881 confirmed deaths in the May 13 earthquake in China as of May 19. Genocide in Darfur.  Suicide bombings in the Middle East.  Homelessness. Global warming. All are usually pretty far away from our studies and our schedules. But our generation’s time is fast approaching.  Start small — make a call, go online, package supplies, write a letter, read the newspaper, save water. Just keep the notion of making a difference in mind and you’ll notice a thousand little ways to do it.

Go to a food pantry, read to a child, do a charity walk. Connect with a person in need. Those kinds of things leave the same lasting effect on individuals as a random act of kindness does. Even if it feels impersonal to you, whoever you’re helping will feel touched to the core.   
Yes, childhood is supposed to be a time to grow and discover, when the real world is allowed to feel far away. But at the same time, the safety of home and school are phenomenal places to practice random acts of kindness and less random acts of community service. 

Last Friday, the Upper School exploded with community service spirit as the new Community Council launched what it hopes will be an era of passion and motivation to serve the community and strengthen bonds within our school.

Look at it in the broader context — now is a better time than any to branch out, become aware and figure out how your tiny life can cause a ripple effect that will one day change the world. And you all will.  It’s impossible not to.