Finding What Matters Through Kindness and Purpose

On the heels of last week’s advising afternoon, Upper School students had two additional opportunities to consider the year’s opening talk about crafting a life that “makes you matter.”
This past Thursday, senior Helen Gray-Bauer and ninth grader Nick Jenkins introduced a segment of a new documentary film being screened around the country entitled “Every Three Seconds.”  The film, which was made available to Waynflete by St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Cape Elizabeth, chronicles the paths of five ordinary people who decided to find a way to act on their strong feelings of empathy when confronted with others’ suffering, be it earthquake victims on the television or food bank recipients in their hometown.
Each of the stories depicted the powerful ripple effect of getting directly involved with organizations that are poised to address hunger, war, and disease.  The film concentrated most on the promise of social media, cell phones, and the Internet as whole new platforms for action. Regardless of the tools employed, the key to successful action is for individuals to connect deeply with a specific problem and really dive in rather than becoming overwhelmed with the enormity of global suffering.  One of the segments of the film we watched featured the story of Charlie, the seven year boy old pictured above, whose response to learning of the Haiti earthquake raised thousands of dollars for relief.
After the film, students presented two great ways for their peers to get involved.  The first is a collection box in the library and a bake sale Friday to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders as they work to combat Ebola. The second opportunity is a lacrosse gear drive for girls in the Maya Lacrosse program, which organizes lacrosse programs for girls in six cities around Guatemala.  The latter request came from Maddie Berrang ’09, who first traveled to Guatemala with Safe Passage, which she learned about in an assembly when she was a sophomore at Waynflete.  A lacrosse player at Waynflete, Maddie is now reaching out to the Upper School community to help her share her love for the game before heading out on another of her multiple service trips to Guatemala City.
As with countless alums, Maddie can trace her powerful service ethic back to her numerous service activities at Waynflete.  Many students follow up a passion sparked at Waynflete by getting involved with a purposeful initiative after graduation.  In addition, their efforts leave a mark on Waynflete.  Maddie’s Safe Passage group was an early iteration of the current Ethical Leadership and Service group which aims to support all service initiatives happening at Waynflete through advocacy and assemblies such as Thursday’s.
This week, we experienced another inspirational message from speaker Michael Chase, who runs The Kindness Center, a virtual organization committed to small acts of kindness as a path to live meaningfully and reduce inevitable human suffering.  Michael’s presentation, introduced by seniors Maddy Pellow and Graham Ratner from the Girls Leadership Training and Boys Mentoring groups respectively, was a gift to the school from Dorothy Stevens, who lost her daughter, former Waynflete student Alice Stevens, in 2013 to a random act of violence.
Michael began his talk by saying that he was deeply moved by the vibe he sensed walking through the campus and meeting students who he sensed “actually want to be here.”  Featuring the power of kindness, his talk touched on such poignant themes as loss and forgiveness as he shared often humorous personal stories that students felt made him completely human.  “I’m not perfect, I’m no saint, I wake up grouchy lots of days,” he said, “but I know that more kindness is what the world desperately needs right now.”  In advising lunch discussions afterward, students shared their impressions of what it means to take full responsibility for their impact on others and what Michael’s message meant to each of them.
Coming on the heels of our recent advising day in which advising homerooms built shared senses of belonging, many through serving the community together, the week has given students ample opportunities to find what makes them matter.  As they do so, we look forward to the positive effects that will inevitably ripple through the Waynflete community and well beyond.
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