Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Do Something!

Today was Senior Signing Day.

This is the day where all the seniors in the YES Prep system come together and share their college decision with their our community of students, teacher and parents. I think it's pretty cool, and most teachers claim it's their favorite day of the school year.

They each come up on stage one by one and then announce that in the year 2017 they will be graduating from.... [fill in college name]. I always love seeing the list of colleges they got accepted to and then trying to guess which one they actually chose. And I love the excitement from the 6th-11th graders from each campus, who go wild and cheer them on.

It's really a fun day. And it kind of is that moment each year, where no matter how rough things have gotten, you are confident as a teacher that it was all worth it to see this. To know the students you teach (directly or indirectly) are going to do something with their lives. That they are excited about the next chapter and plan to leave their mark on the world in a way society thought they never could.

This year, the keynote speaker challenged the seniors (and in turn everyone else) to DO SOMETHING. While many of the things he said were pieces of encouragement you hear in almost every inspirational speeches, something about that mantra stood out.

Maybe it's because he made them repeat "I will DO SOMETHING!" a million times. Or maybe it's because those two simple words really do define what we are here on this earth for. To do something. It doesn't matter how big, or how small. It doesn't matter if it impacts the world, or just one person. If you're doing something that goes beyond you, you've made a difference. And that's what you should do.

It's really easy to have the "drum major instinct," as Dr. Martin Luther King describe in one of his lesser known sermons (I first heard of it from the keynote speaker). To "want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade." But as King points out, having the drum major instinct can be a problem. It can lead us to do more hard than good.

Not that we shouldn't seek to be great or excellence. But we need to redefine our definition of greatness and excellence. But true greatness and excellence comes from being an servant. And everyone can be a servant. Whether you plan to go to Yale or the college down the street. Whether you make A's, or simply scrap by with C's. Whether you make millions, or minimum wage.

"Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant."


All you have to do is ... DO SOMETHING.

All I have to do is do something.

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