Posted by Dr. Mark Holodick on 9/2/2016
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve met with a lot of different student groups. These groups include athletic teams, bands, students in leadership roles, and classes of students. While these various groups have different goals and intentions, they are very similar in at least one way. They are all made up of an incredibly diverse population of young people. The students who make up these groups come from different zip codes and different socio-economic backgrounds. They vary in skin color, religious beliefs, lifestyles, and ethnic backgrounds. Indeed they are a melting pot, a microcosm of our amazing community and nation. BSD, being a traditional public school district, welcomes and educates all who show up; there are no entrance exams, no interviews, and no selection criteria. Our students represent the entire community we serve as well as the world in which we live. I find this incredibly inspiring.
Talking with and watching these young people interact, support one another, and work collaboratively toward common goals has been uplifting and leaves me with tremendous optimism for our future. In many of my meetings, I spoke, rather frankly, with them about current events, many of which are disheartening, confusing, frustrating, tragic, and sad. Yet, I am hopeful because I have watched these young people consistently practice acceptance, respect for each other, and empathy. They care for, and about, each other and are more concerned with their similarities than their differences. They give me great hope, leading me to say to them that we, as adults, should model their behavior and actions and look for ways in which we can make connections with others, especially those who may be in need or could benefit from support or an act of kindness.
I saw that sort of empathy in action early yesterday. At 6:50 in the morning, I found myself waiting outside the Panera at Christiana Mall. The doors open at 7:00. I was grabbing coffee for myself and a colleague as we met there to carpool to Polytech High School in Dover for a meeting. I took the 10 minutes to make a work call and, as I was on the phone, a State Trooper pulled up. A few people were, like I was, waiting for Panera to open. One man, who appeared to be homeless, was sitting alone on a bench. As the doors to Panera opened and I was ending my call, the Trooper exited his car and discreetly said something to the man, and off they walked away together. After hanging up, I went in to purchase my coffee and saw the Trooper buying the man a coffee and breakfast. As the officer walked past me near the back of the shop, I couldn’t resist and asked, “Pardon me, did you just buy that gentleman breakfast?” The Trooper responded, “Yeah, I know what it’s like to be hungry,” and off he went. He appeared embarrassed that someone had noticed.
Witnessing this, I felt that sense of hope again, knowing what a huge impact small acts of kindness can have. As we start the school year and enter an election season that is already full of negativity and divisiveness, I hope and pray that we, as a community, look for ways to support one another and lift each other through acts of kindness, small and large. Thanks to our amazing BSD students who practice inclusiveness and empathy every day, as well as this State Trooper, today I am especially hopeful!