This past Tuesday, I was fortunate enough to be able to accompany Whitney to the Copeland Middle School in New Jersey. Whitney was there as a guest, speaking to the 7th grade classroom of the wonderful Adele Black, about doing service work on September 11th, now the National Day of Service and Remembrance.
We heard from some incredible people that morning, including David Paine, who founded MyGoodDeed.org, which was the first group to ask that September 11th be the National Day of Service and Remembrance. Co-founders David Paine and Jay Winuk wanted to take an event so devastating and horrific, and turn it into a day where instead of focusing on the bad, people remembered the good of our country, and the way we united in the weeks following the attacks on our nation. Not only did they encourage people to remember the good, but also, they encouraged them to do a good deed – to help someone in need.
Whitney spoke to the class as well, about a non-profit organization that she has become involved with recently called FACE Africa. The organization leads women’s empowerment programs and clean water programs in Liberia and the Sierra Leonne. In a few short weeks, Whitney will head to Liberia to visit some factories where many women make clothing. Whitney will take all of her inspiration from the trip and design a shirt that can be produced and sold right here in the United States. Then, all of the proceeds will go back to the women in Liberia. Through her stories and experiences, Whit showed the kids how you can take a talent specific to you and turn it into something that benefits others.
Lastly, we heard from the Brown Family, whose 14-year-old son, Len had been diagnosed with a brain tumor just two years ago. The family spoke about the trials and tribulations that their family had gone through–the hardships, and the anguish. But, the pain that the family had gone through was not the focus of Mr. Brown’s speech. The focus instead was on how the community rallied around his family during their time of need, offering money, blood donations, letters of support and hope, and meals, four or five nights a week. Needless to say, the Brown family couldn’t believe the support that flowed out from the community, and even from complete strangers. We also heard from Len, who is doing wonderfully today, about how he has been inspired to help – how doing good for others is no longer a want for him, but rather, a need. From their personal tragedy came a story of hope and inspiration.
After hearing from all of the guest speakers, we broke up into groups and sat with four of the girls in the class, talking and brainstorming all of the ways that they–with their classmates–could make a difference. From carnivals to auctions, and bake sales to garage sales, the list of ways to contribute was never ending. Whitney and I both noticed separately how inspiring it was to be around kids all morning – they had so many incredible ideas; their minds were so open and creative. They were so enthusiastic about the project, naming cause after cause that could be helped by their various, wonderful ideas. At the end of the morning, we were able to hear from all of the groups about the ways they all thought they could contribute to making their community a better place.
Spending the day at the Copeland School on Tuesday morning was a truly special experience for both Whitney and myself. It made us both realize what is really important in this world: giving back. This Saturday, it is my hope that people all around our country will take the time to think about what it is they can do to make a difference in this world – pick a cause that matters to you, and run with it! From donating money, to donating time, everyone can make a difference. From helping an elderly person cross the street, to donating a portion of your hard earned salary, there are even different ways to make a difference.
I know that tomorrow, the nine year anniversary of September 11th, I will personally take some time to remember the day that changed our nation forever…and I will also remember what our morning at the Copeland School taught us – that from tragedy, we can rise above, turn a bad experience into something positive, and make our world a better place.