On Friday, September 11th, the entire Middle School ventured out into the community as part of the United Way of South Hampton Roads “Day of Caring.” Nineteen buses carried kids and their faculty chaperones to nineteen different locations to perform community service for most of the day. The entire undertaking was a huge success.
There was much weeding and cleaning to be done around the visitor center in First Landing State Park. There was a mighty lot of trash to be picked up in two Virginia Beach community parks. There were senior citizens to be sung to (and in the case of Caroline Bisi, to be serenaded by) at Atlantic Shores Retirement Community. There were first graders at Little Creek Elementary school to be read to. At these and the other fifteen locations, students gave of themselves in differing ways. After 3 hours or so the kids enjoyed the lunches each one had packed and they headed back to school.
Upon returning to school they stayed in their groups for an hour or so and reflected on how the day had gone and how each of them had managed to contribute in some way. Most groups made slide shows or short videos, all of which were shown to the now-reunited student body in Price Auditorium. The combination of the breadth of the kids’ service and their considerable creative talents made for a very impressive display. As the kids headed off to practice or to rehearsal I sat doing some more reflecting of my own.
My first conclusion was that this event was masterfully conceived, planned, and executed. (This coming from a fellow who spent six years as a lawyer organizing sometimes very complicated financial transactions and bringing them to a successful close.) What Maria Moore and those who worked with her pulled off was nothing short of amazing. 352 Middle school kids are essentially 352 wild cards. You must anticipate the unexpected at any turn. For example, one group had to endure a lockdown at the school they were visiting because of a police matter several blocks away. No problem – just another day at the office. No one missed a bus, no one went hungry, and no one got lost or mislaid. You will have to trust me on this one –conducting this endeavor without a hitch was a major miracle.
My second conclusion was that the big miracle spawned many small favors. The gentleman at Atlantic Shores who crooned “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” to Ms. Bisi had a slightly better day than he might otherwise have had. The first-grade girl in Room 157 at Mary Calcott School’s day was made just a little better by playing word games on the floor with one of our eighth graders. The people who visited First Landing the next day were just a little more impressed with the visitor center. All those hundreds of small favors add up to another major miracle.
My final thought was more a wish than a conclusion. I sat there hoping that perhaps the day itself did a small favor for our students. You bring middle schoolers through their years here one small step at a time. While there are a few “Ah hah!” moments, you have to take the long view to see them develop and mature. Maybe, I thought, just maybe, we brought them a little closer to the realization that they are crucial parts of a larger and often imperfect world. Maybe we helped them, in the words of a very wise mentor of mine, “get outside themselves” for a little while. You can only hope.
Hate to do this to you, Ms. Moore, but let’s do this again. Soon.
Click on the link below to see some of the student presentations and a slide show put together by Middle School Science Teacher Elizabeth Glassman. I promise you’ll be impressed, and maybe even a little moved.