Support and Inspiration from the Sixth Grade
It has been just over a week since I left Lesvos to return back to the USA and I just got home on Monday. I took the longest route home, partially because it was cheapest and partially because I made a detour to see some friends on the east coast. Since getting back to Portland, it's been a whirlwind few days as I tried to get my bearings, as I pack for a move to the Bay on Saturday and as I try to say hi (and bye) to as many people as I can. One of the highest items on my to do list during my 5 days in Portland was to stop by my friend, Ms. Maynard's, sixth grade class. (Remember when they made my day?) My friend, and their teacher, had told me how the students would come in as ask if I had posted anything new, and they would read my blog. MY BLOG. I seriously sometimes think that my mom is the only person who reads this thing (Hi Mom!) and am always, always, always over the moon anytime someone mentions, even in passing, that they enjoy reading my blog. I'm flattered and honestly honored that you give me your time and attention. I can't remember the last time I was in a middle school, but there I was, at 1pm on a Thursday, waiting for three sixth-grade classes to file in...to see me?! I always remembered assemblies and guest speakers from my childhood and the impact that speakers would have on me--and now the roles were reversed. I was a little nervous but mostly excited. I'm not afraid of public speaking, even though I get butterflies every time, but this was different. The students knew me as "Sej", they would discuss the posts that I wrote, they followed along like they were there. When I saw them walk into the auditorium after lunch, I saw some faces light up, lots of waves and felt this energy that I can't even describe. It was amazing. The time flew by, hugs and high fives and smiles were exchanged, and I even had a group ask me to dab (which I don't know if I really know how to do, but I got their seal of approval)!
They had some questions for me in advance to answer during my visit, and they had plenty more that they wanted to ask. Funny enough, I think the questions that they asked me are some of the same ones that friends and family have been asking me since I got back, so I thought I'd answer some of them for all of you.
Was I scared? Yes. But probably not the way you think. I didn't fear for my safety but I was more so afraid that I wouldn't be able to make a difference and that my efforts, and all of the support that I was receiving, would go unused. Fortunately, that wasn't the case. (And now that I think about it, the safety part is a lie. The only time I was afraid for my safety was when Nick and I went up North to Molyvos, and I followed Google Maps instead of my common sense, and we ended up on this dirt road with lots of potholes. Thank GOODNESS Nick was driving, because I had my eyes shut as I would offer him words of encouragement on his driving. Fortunately, we (and the tiny car we had) survived the drive unscathed and made it to our destination.)
What inspired me to do this? A few different things. First, my friend Sojourn. We 'met' through Nomadness Travel Tribe, a travel group that I'm a part of, when she shared her volunteer experience in Lesvos. Soon after she made the trip to Lesvos, she started a charity and put out a call for help. I answered that call. Second, Canada. Around the time that I was mulling over Sojourn's call for help, Canada was welcoming its first refugee families (from this current crisis) and the reception and welcome was awe-spiring. I was born and raised in Canada, and though I now have dual citizenship with the USA, I couldn't help but feel proud of my home and native land. Third, Mr. Rogers. This quote from Mr. Rogers where he would look for helpers is one that has stuck with me and encourages me to always look for the helpers myself. What if I could be one?
Did I cry? I did. Sometimes out of frustration. Sometimes out of sadness. And even out of joy. Like the time that I was on boat patrol and Ms. Maynard posted a photo of some of the cards and notes of encouragement that her students had made for me. I sat there, at boat patrol, reading the cards as best as I could on my little phone screen with tears streaming down my face. The amount of love and support and encouragement was overwhelming, in a good way. And now that I have the cards in person and I've read through them, the tears have started again.
So to the sixth graders at Ockley, I thank you. Thank you for giving me a chance to share my story with you and for listening. Thank you for cheering me on and sending me good vibes throughout my trip--I could feel them and they helped. Thank you for all of your thoughtful questions and your time today; it was seriously the highlight of my day, if not week. Thank you for letting me and my experience inspire and encourage you to take action, because every good deed that each one of us does makes a difference. If enough of us take action, we can and we will change the world. You've told me, in person and through your letters, that I've inspired you, that you look up to me, that you really appreciate everything that I've done--I can say the same about you. After meeting you, I have hope and faith in the future because you are the future and I know that you're going to make the world a better place for all of us. You can make a difference. I can't wait to read all about it and be even more inspired by you.