Bittersweet. That is the word of the week that applies in so many ways to so many aspects of life. As I sat taking in the Avengers Endgame, I realized how bittersweet the fight is for what you believe in. I also realized and accepted there is so much complacency in the world, those individuals that hold themselves responsible for the steps that need to be taken to make the world, and not just themselves better, stand out- mainly because those individuals that are selfless and are willing to walk through their own fire for someone else – very few of those individuals exist anymore.
The struggle you witness in the last Avenger’s film seems so incredibly real and I felt this was because as of late we have seen the metaphor all around us – with so much fight evident in politics, neighboring countries and the simple fight against decline we continually see every day – fears of children safety in schools, hatred against each other based on race, beliefs, ethnicity, the disappearance towards extinction of so many species, evidence of materialism in a world that accumulates more and more waste rather than gratitude, just to name a few.
The fight against cancer we have found in our own Woodbridge community with Troy Haynes has certainly come as a shock. The bravery that Troy has shown and the fight he demonstrates what someone with integrity and character, and humbleness can do to positively influence those around us and ultimately a whole community – is nothing short of heroic. it is what we all need to inspire us to be better.
It was not too long ago this school year when a quiet, 9th grade student and Cross Country runner named Shania – started to make a habit of coming into the library everyday and announced one day the fight her Dad had taken up for his recovery against cancer that had turned up in his system. I watched over the next few months as she helplessly watched from the sidelines and would have easily switched roles with her Dad any moment. Yet her quiet resolve and family, made her stand her ground and she found a way to become stronger for it. It is a game changer, just as in football, Cross Country, and life itself when one individual on a field, course, or community maintains the courage in the face of fear and brings up everyone around them – when they themselves would seem they have the largest fight on their hands. Selflessness I continually see is the biggest factor I have seen that empowers those around you, I have seen this in Shania and certainly Troy Haynes.
When I was lucky enough to see fellow teacher Tom Smith nominated as the Ralph H. Moore Community Provider Teacher of the Year tonight, along with Mr. Chad Jones as Emergency Provider of the Year and Corporal John Cullen as Police Officer of the Year, I again saw the light that individuals still hold among so many that do not. Those few individuals are the game changers in a school, I fire house, and in the line of fire in the community for a reason. I remember overhearing countless conversations of concern over students that Mr. Tom Smith would initiate on his own, after school hours, trying to assess how to reach students from other languages, countries, and broken homes to get them what they need. Those snippets of conversations I witnessed brought home how lucky Woodbridge High was to have someone willing to take on these concerns when so much already exists to overwhelm educators already.
In celebrating Teacher’s Recognition Week this week, and being served so many great dishes from our administration as appreciation, I found myself receiving some phenomenal messages from students left on my desk that kept blowing my mind in how much students appreciated basic actions I see as minimally expected. I realized the struggle everyday is eased by those fighters I find in the form of students, colleagues, and community members that put aside their disappointments and frustrations everyday to make the day that much better for the whole, for those around them and not necessarily themselves.
When I look back and remember Mr. Custead who pushed me responsibility-wise in the Butler Intermediate School when I worked as a library aide (little did I realize I would find myself in the Library arena so much later in life), Mr. Neutrelle, one of the strictest English teachers I had in Intermediate who never accepted less than the best, Ms. Semes who I had never forgotten how patient she was despite my constant into-everything-around-me approach in elementary school, the countless professors such as Dr. McCarren, Boggs, Permenter, to name a few who helped shape my future when I found myself wandering among my future prospects in college at Slippery Rock University, Dr. DiMarco who introduced me to a whole new world of International multicultural literature, and the countless individuals I could go on that took the time to remind me why the fight is so important. The fight within us allows for change, for optimism, and for a better world. It is often so easy to get used to those around us who have a loudspeaker of criticism without any energy to move in a direction to truly impact change – a mouthpiece and nothing else. However,
just as I took in the beauty of the fight and struggle I witnessed on screen in the Avengers Endgame, I realized, how many real heroes we have around us that take the fight to communities around us to encourage action to make that change a reality. That is all the difference in the world that is evident in less and less quantities, the willingness to sacrifice one’s own hurt for the sake of bringing others up around us – and for that reason the heroes I have seen these past months in Troy, Shania, educators and those that sacrificed their time for me as a former student – no screen, no film series, no trilogy could ever capture those priceless gifts that these very people in our community show every single day. Truly the EndGame is how we each take those gifts given to us and pass them on to others to do the same and change everything as we know it. That 5k, that shirt, that wrist band, that walk, that run, that fund, that festival, that event, that IDEA to change something or create something to improve that around us? Priceless.