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January 2019

Friday Mornings at Fenn

The first part of the day

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                        “Every day is a new beginning”-unknown 

            It was a crisp morning, colorful autumn hues made Mother Nature proud. Frosted ground began to thaw as the sun broke through the charcoal colored clouds. This Friday  morning could be any Friday morning and the repetition of events between 7:45-8:15 am week after week is almost comical. Boxes of frosted donuts make their grand entrance through the chipped, weathered door of the gym. This weekly sale attracts students who eagerly wait with their coins clanking in their pockets. The assortment of donuts is spread across the foldable plastic table. The cash box is kept tucked away from arms reach. There is the usual Boston cream, chocolate glazed, and jelly. But the type everyone had their eyes on is the seasonal pumpkin donuts whose numbers are dwindling as the lower schoolers have been first in line. Patiently waiting students handed the clerk their payments and the transactions are complete with a smile and a bite. For the next thirty minutes a series of chrome and silver cars pulled in to the half circle in front of Ward Hall. They are predominantly SUV’s ranging from Chevy Silverado’s to Jeep Grand Cherokees. Each releasing carbon dioxide into the air as parents eagerly drop off their boys. Traffic grinds by until the last student has been dropped off.

            Today’s weather is different weather than usual for New England in October. Arctic wind wrestles with the heat from the south as two competing climates collide. Students flow into the gym lobby lugging their heavy packs of binders, books, and homework and almost on queue drop them exactly where they stop walking. Inside heavy down-coats are taken off. Students stroll into the gym and reach for the deflated Wilson basketballs in the bin - picking them up and launching them into the frayed nylon nets of the hoop. Groups of friends congregate and start a pick-up game of which always turn competitive. On the opposite side of the wooden gym floor the soccer players start their own games. The shoes of the players move the well-worn ball across the hardwood floor in hopes of putting it into the opponent’s net. On the other side of campus is the library. Natural light seeps through the large glass panes and provides the readers perfect visibility. Some admittedly rush to complete their homework in a last minute push before the day’s start. Book bags are spread across the oak tables. There is  steady stream of students walking between the library and gym until the clock strikes 8:15 am and all students file away into their advisory to start the long day. There is a chaos to these mornings that repeats itself each week. At times it grows a little old, but for now I will cherish them as their numbers are decreasing each and every day of 9th grade.

 


How do you respond to new experiences and meeting new people who are very different from you?

Unexpected Friends

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We were bosom friends; he would gladly die for me, if need should be.”

~ Ishmael (Chapter 10 from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick)

           They often say you cannot judge a book by its cover and I know first hand that this expression applies to people as well. I have found over the years that sometime it is those who may seem at first the most different from me, that turn out to be good friends, partners, or teammates. In the fall of 8th grade, I joined the Teen Leadership Corps at Cradles to Crayons. As I drove into the Brighton headquarters I was immediately having second thoughts given that I didn’t know a single person who I was  going to be working with for the next six months. The group was made up of teens from the Metro Boston area. As I walked past the bins of clothing at the back of the warehouse, those that had already arrived for our first meeting were sitting on a series of short bleachers arranged in a semicircle. At first glance, not a single person was smiling or making eye contact with me, or anyone else. There were just a lot of people looking down at their phones and waiting for the leader to start the meeting. Reluctantly, we went around the room and shared a little about ourselves - the name of our school and hometown and a little about our family life and hobbies. Based on this cursory demographic information, we appeared to have nothing in common. In my head, this six month volunteer position could not go quick enough - I admittedly had little hope for the experience and I’m sure I projected my concern with my attitude. The next week, I tried to get out of going, but I was forced to go. This pattern repeated itself for several weeks until at some point, a point that I can’t quite identify, I found myself enjoying going. As I reflect on what changed for me with this experience and these people, I can see that when we started to work together on fulfilling the mission of Cradles to Crayons, when we started to brainstorm, plan and implement some of the programs we had come up with together, we discovered that while we had little in common demographically, we shared something much more important, values and goals. At the end of the six months, having created several clothing drives together, we were actually quite close. I learned a lot from my time with the Teen Leadership Corps, but one unexpected lesson was that you never know what subtle things will bring you together with others and sometimes, those connectors are below the surface in less obvious ways.

Since this experience, I have found that it is a lot more powerful when you enter a new group to look for what you have in common, rather than what makes you different.

 


Wise

A  Decision

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“The fool speaks, the wise man listens” -African Proverb

 

    When presented with the choice between being “happy and ignorant” or “wise”, I am at first struck by the fact that the two choices are not exactly parallel. Quite cleverly in the question there was no well-being associated with being wise. In other words, it wasn’t “wise and unhappy”, that was not part of the question, although some may have inferred it. While there are many definitions or interpretations of “wise”, most agree that wise means one who has or shows experience, knowledge, and good judgment. To me this is the greatest achievement one can obtain. In fact, through history different cultures and societies have praised the wise. In the Native American culture the elders in the tribal communities, were considered the “wisdom-keepers” and held in the highest regard. In Ancient Rome, people put their faith and trust in those with wisdom and experience. And, in more modern times, the countries of India, Korea, China, and Africa have shared similar respect for the wise amongst them. There is good reason for these cultures to lean towards the wise. It was proven by the scholars Nisbett and Grossman that being wise is directly correlated with happiness.The findings were that "wise reasoning"--practical and thoughtful, helps us navigate important challenges in social life (leads to happiness). In the study the wiser a person was, the greater their well-being (figure 2). Now one may be wondering how one might measure the characteristic “wise”. The truth is that it is not too difficult. The studies used a series of accounts of social conflicts and recorded responses to create a “wisdom score”. Ignorance perhaps leads more immediately to happiness, but over time, wisdom creates a more permanent and meaningful source of happiness. Based on this research, if being wise also leads to happiness, I would sooner be wise than ignorant as those that are ignorant lack knowledge and awareness and are uneducated and unsophisticated. If one is guaranteed happiness no matter what, wouldn’t you rather live with wisdom than ignorance.