Saturday, December 8, 2012

Planting The Seeds Of Empathy And Service

Source: ASIDE, 2012
As we approach the end of another year that seemed to go by in the blink of an eye, the heaviness of world events both near and far looms over us. We face the dire prediction of falling off a cliff because our legislators have failed to compromise much, if at all, over the last four years. For some reason, we are bombarded every day with the prospect that if automated tax hikes and spending cuts go into effect, doomsday is around the corner. Add in the end of the Mayan calendar just before we plunge off the cliff, and we have one heck of a December to deal with before we say "Happy" New Year.

Of course, these two predictions do not account for all the other ills going on in the world, such as American troops still fighting a war in Afghanistan, or the sudden change from building a democracy in Egypt to the new leader Mohammed Morsi instituting absolute authority with unrestricted powers. More locally, many communities ravaged by "Super Storm Sandy" are still without the basic necessities of water, heat, and shelter for over a month. We can't help but wonder, where are the common refrains "Peace on Earth" and "Joy to the World" so often printed on holiday cards?

Source: Richard Law

Well, for one, they are in our students. With so much swirling around them in their click-and-swipe world, we often overlook the necessity to help them make things that touch the hearts of others. They truly have a genuine interest in current events, and they want to understand the world that to adults seems so negative. This year, we're trying to give them occasions to do just that, and our efforts are paying off in seeing them willingly volunteer to help in their free time. We don't call it community service; we just want them to give willingly to whatever cause they wish to help. Surprisingly, we have no shortage and plenty of repeat participants. It's about planting the seeds of service. By giving them opportunities to contribute and feel empathy, we can build character and self-confidence in knowing that they can make a difference.

Source: Richard Law

This fall they finished our memorial that launched our Pencils for Peace initiative by hanging one pencil for every soldier who gave his or her life in the war in Afghanistan. It was truly inspirational to see so many young people wanting to take part in the project. For Veterans Day, the students worked to create a map of the United States the size of a softball field. They added a peace sign, "USA," and the words "Thank You" in huge letters. They then lined the field with flags to guide other students who helped plant 2000 flags to honor the veterans who served our country.

To our surprise, or perhaps by a stroke of luck, when they turned to face the school photographer, the image appeared to form a heart around the map. The power and emotion felt by teachers and students were beyond words. As with so much of what we write about, this picture is worth a 1000 of them.

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