We are growing up in times of great trouble as individuals and as a population. Regardless of your beliefs and opinions on the presidential election or on the many other controversial matters of our daily lives, one thing is clear, we are really falling apart as a nation. The unity that we claim to fight for, is disintegrating. It has started with support groups for college students and petitions and has escalated to peaceful rallies in schools across the country (including our own- see here), and even violent protests in Portland streets. Whether such reactions are valid or not, those feelings are still there and little can change that. While it’s been a few weeks since anything truly dramatic occurred, and the craze will fade and flourish as times change, the recent outburst of such extremes is not one to go unaddressed. Some of it is understandable. It is clear to see how it has become easy to feel as though the cup has overflowed, that the problems we face, not only as a country but as a world, have gone beyond our control. To name a few: our economic struggles, our social disunity, bias media, corruption of our government, atmospheric and oceanic pollution, our deteriorating ecosystems, and the ever-present threat of war. These are all problems that suddenly feel too big to just put off and ignore but in reality they have been here for a long time. We have all only just now noticed how close they really are, which is, in an optimistic light, one good thing to come out of the year 2016. It is time to see the big picture, to zoom out and see the real priorities: our planet, our unity, and our kindness. If we can set that shift in ourselves -as individuals and as a society- into motion, then it is truly not the end. The Pacific Ocean waves still beat against the beaches of Newport, the sun still blazes on lovely Oregon afternoons, the trees still grow tall in redwood forests, and our clock has not yet struck twelve. To the few or many people that truly feel that this could be the end times, do something about it because even if it really is a deteriorating world we should still fight to leave it in as good of condition as we can.
The first beginnings of all great things are a spark of motivation and a fire of hope. If the dilemmas listed above aren’t enough motivation, you will have to find your motivation some other way. Hope, however, is different. Hope just takes a little inspiration, a little self-empowerment. So here’s some to be reminded of. The first thing about harnessing hope is where to draw your strength from, something that is hard sometimes. The best strength you can have is to see a glint of light in the darkness, to have optimism. In the wise words of one great teacher of CHS, Mr. Dazey has said to his classes, “A=O, adversity equals opportunity”. That is a simple phrase that really applies to all things. When you feel the lows of life that we all do, that things are too much or out of control, remember that a tree does not grow stronger without the storming rains. A person does not change or better themselves when life is already perfect. We struggle in order to make ourselves better. The next most important thing about maintaining a sense of hope is to know how to approach dark times. A strategy and mindset that is especially important is to accept that you have to let go of what you can’t change. One way of addressing these things in your life is something that was taught in Health I with Ms. Kiekel last year (Thanks, Ms. Kiekel!). It’s a really simple activity that will only take a few moments. First, list on paper all the things that you struggle with, that stress you, that are disheartening, that overwhelm you, etc. anything that makes you feel negatively. Now, you will go through this list a few times. The first time, go through and mark anything that you can eliminate, things that make you unhappy that you can simply just take out of your life. The second time, go through and mark all the things that you can change and write down how you are going to change them; make goals for how to improve. Lastly, and most importantly, go through your list one more time and mark all the things that you can’t control and can’t change, all the things that you just have to do or have to experience. Look over them once more, take a deep breath, and let them go. Yes, let them go because what you can’t change are things that won’t do you any good carrying with you. Holding on to unbreakable, unchangeable, and undoable things will only bring you more strife. Deep breaths, let go.
Now that you have a little hope, here’s what to do with it. Make change. There’s a lot of things in our day to day lives that make bigger differences than we really know. From recycling or saving energy to small acts of kindness, everything makes some contribution to a better world. So if you want to make that small contribution then here is what you can do: our planet is one thing that is quite obviously the most important thing we will ever have, colonizing Mars is not a good replacement, learn to take care of the things you already have. Recycling is something that can be a problem around CHS. Paper is obviously recyclable! Yet time and time again there are crumpled wads of it in the trash. If a recycling bin is not close to you, too bad, find one, walk a ways. It’s good for you and for the planet and for the workers who have to sort it. Along with recycling there are a few other environmentally helpful things. If you can, bike to school. It’s great exercise and it reduces gas usage. If you can’t bike then even just taking the bus can help because less cars on the road also helps lower atmospheric pollution and the demand for gas. Good for the earth, good for you, there’s a pattern. You don’t have to do a bunch of gardening or compost to contribute a good thing to a better future, although it helps. It isn’t an impossible feat to become an environmentally friendly society. Certain cities in Germany make much more solar power than they even need. India has already started industrializing edible forks and spoons rather than using plastic. We can get there, but it all starts with us first. If you think your recycling skills are fine then work on a different aspect of yourself, Kindness is definitely something that can always be better. If you’d like to spread a little kindness to someone else this winter then there are many opportunities! Winter Smiles, a fundraiser for families in need during this holiday season has started and, if you can, it is a great way to spread a little love and cheer. If you’d like a long term commitment to doing some good in our community, the World Aid Club just started and meet on Wednesdays during lunch in room 108. Our school provides various opportunities to make an impact and help others, take advantage of them even if they are small. The world is never going to get better if we don’t do something, the quote by Mahatma Ghandi “Be the change you that you wish to see in the world” has never been more true. The greatest quality we can have as people is to work on what we could do better. If you think you are already great at all of these things then find something else to improve about yourself. When was the last time you complimented someone? When was the last time you stopped and really listened to others? When was the last time you helped someone else? These are all questions that we sometimes forget to ask ourselves, but this is a solid reminder just to take a look around and be reminded of your purpose, to be helpful, to be kind, to make a difference because your difference really matters no matter how small it seems. Be aware of others, and continue to take kind, responsible, and meaningful action right here, right now, in our eleventh hour.