To be different, to feel different, is one of the most uncomfortable feelings we experience. We have all had that moment where we gave the wrong answer, wore the wrong outfit, had the wrong haircut, or publicly failed in front of someone else. That sinking, punch to the gut feeling of being noticed because we are different doesn’t go away easily, however, for most it fades over time. Those moments of being highlighted for our differences are fleeting, interspersed with a normalcy of fitting in alongside our friends. Unfortunately, society does a terrific job defining ‘normal’ for us, and it is up to us to constantly recenter ourselves around what we share with others, rather than our differences.
This theme of appreciating others coursed its way through our Proctor veins all weekend. From Jada’s Pete Talk in assembly yesterday, to last evening’s showing of Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World, to today’s Special Olympics Fun Day, to Sunday’s planned celebration of Indigenous People’s Day with a ceremony at the Proctor tipi, we have been reminded of the beauty that exists in our appreciation for each other’s experiences and realities.
Proctor’s relationship with Special Olympics New Hampshire began in the fall of 2014 when Proctor partnered with local law enforcement officials to host a Special Olympics Rail Trail Rally. The event has evolved over the past five years, with this year’s version including an opening ceremony parade, team cheers, tug of war competition, and two rounds of unified competition where Proctor’s students and faculty partnered with more than 60 Special Olympics of New Hampshire athletes to simply have fun. The morning concluded with a dance-off that anyone in attendance would attest served as a highlight of the day.
Central to Proctor’s educational model is a desire for our students and teachers to constantly seek proximity to their learning. Whether it is studying border issues on Mountain Classroom at a detention facility along the Rio Grande, spending time on Proctor’s 2,500 acres studying wildlife ecology, or calculating the potential yield of our newest solar array in math class, we know students learn best when they are able to physically obtain proximity to their studies. The same philosophy resides in our non-academic pursuits of appreciating, understanding, and thriving on the qualities we share as a human race.
Our ongoing partnership with Special Olympics provides an incredibly powerful opportunity to get to know members of the local community too often characterized by their disabilities, rather than their abilities. The abilities on display this morning by both Proctor’s students and our visiting Special Olympians were impressive.
Equally impressive was the willingness of all involved in the activity to step outside their comfort zone, if just for a moment, to take the leap of faith required to spark a conversation with a stranger. What made today’s Fun Day a success is not organizational genius of Gregor Makechnie ‘90 (although we offer Gregor a heartfelt thank you for making this day happen each year), or the volunteers from SONH and Proctor who aided in setup, registration, and clean up, but rather the raw human connections made and smiles shared by our students and our friends from Special Olympics New Hampshire. These relationships are what living to learn, and learning to live is all about. Connecting and sharing joy with those around us with complete disregard for the narrow-minded boxes society attempts to place between us. That's our how we want to live our lives at Proctor.