Mike's Notes: Little Things Matter

Posted by Mike Henriques

09/29/2017

Sometimes it is a simple piece of paper, a skittering scrap blown across a walk or lodged in the taller grass. Sometimes it is the tape at the end of a game, rounded up and tossed under a team bench, or an orange Gatorade top hovering on the green grass, or the water glass left on a table after a meal. We notice these bits of community flotsam, and each time there is that mini-debate inside: Should I pick it up? Will it make a difference?

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Sometimes I watch Gregor Makechnie as he walks from the east side of campus to the west, his walked punctuated by comma like pauses as he bends to pick up a bit of foil, the stub of a pencil, a gum wrapper.  Earlier this week I was gathering up left behind silverware and a forgotten plate in the Dining Commons when Lance Crate ‘18 called over to me, “I’ve got that.”  A small moment, a big impact. And then  it was Hunter Churchill straightening a walk-off mat in the dining commons so someone wouldn't trip on their way to the dish room. This willingness to see and to pitch in even if the gesture is small, it matters. It’s part of being fully invested in the space where you live, part of being willing to take the small step to build the larger, better community. We become sensitized by these small moments to larger needs, to what we might have otherwise walked by and ignored, and that can play out in such good ways. So does it make a difference? I believe it does.

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This has been a fall of natural disasters - hurricanes, earthquakes, and impending volcanic eruptions. When we see the devastation wrought by the storms of this season, the clips from the Weather Channel that show islands denuded, streets choked with trees, or boats splayed across highways, when we see the devastation in Mexico City and citizens wading through the rubble of fallen buildings and working in silence and heat to unbraid twisted rebar and concrete, it seems a little foolish to build a corollary between that and tending to the smallest of these community tasks. But isn’t there a link? Doesn't one set you up for the other so that when and if that larger need arises, the pump of altruism has been primed? I’d like to think so.

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There was a student announcement about the devastation in Puerto Rico in Thursday’s assembly and the first steps of the Proctor community effort to fund raise for those in need. Our dollars will be small measured against the immense needs of the island, something analogous to picking up micro trash while walking from one end of campus to the other, but important nonetheless. Doesn't an announcement and a few dollars seed compassion, awareness, and the message of humanity’s underlying commonality?  Maybe not all the seeds will take, but what if the swing to awareness is 30%? 50%? That’s significant movement.

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These micro moments matter, often having an outsized impact on development of character - both the individual and the community’s. The little things are the big things.

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Mike Henriques P'11, P'15

Proctor Academy Head of School

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