Each year, seniors at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School deliver a speech to their peers on a topic of their choosing in the Newhall Auditorium. Often equal parts clever and moving, emotional and personal, each speech offers a glimpse into the lives, experiences, struggles, and triumphs of SSM seniors.
Throughout the 2018-19 school year, we will share these speeches with the SSM community and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.
Opportunity is defined as a set of circumstances that make it possible to do something. At Shattuck-St. Mary’s, we are presented with numerous opportunities every day. We are able to join a COE and pursue our passion in BioScience, Boys Choir, Engineering, Figure Skating, Golf, Hockey, Pre-Conservatory Music, Soccer, The Major, and Vocal Performance. We can join our school athletic teams such as Basketball, Baseball, Golf, Lacrosse, Soccer, Tennis, Ultimate Frisbee, Lacrosse, and Volleyball. There are also many clubs that are presented as opportunities to us.
When I am home during breaks and summer vacation, I am presented with a different opportunity. When I came to Shattuck my freshman year, my mom found herself with some free time and helping others was her first thought. So for the last two years, my mom has been going out with Uplift, a non-profit organization that feeds the homeless in downtown Kansas City. Uplift does more than feeding the homeless; they provide them with water, cat and dog food, hygiene items, clothing, candles and matches, medical items, clothing, and blankets. Most importantly they bring them companionship and compassion.
She and the other volunteers serve between 300 to 400 people a night on four different routes. But the most important thing they bring cannot be seen or touched. It is the opportunity to connect with another person - to have a conversation, to show interest in them as a person and to ask about their day. When I am home for breaks, I go out with her. The areas that we serve are so different from anything I have ever known. They are very rough areas and can be a bit scary at times. My mom knows most of them on her route by name and she loves to introduce me to her friends.
Some stops are heavily Hispanic, and I really enjoy being able to talk to them and they enjoy getting to carry on a conversation in their language. One person I have connected with is a Hispanic guy named Angel. Angel came to the states with his parents when he was around 16 years old; he is in his late 20’s or so now. He lives under a bridge all by himself. His English is still very limited. When I am in the van, he really enjoys having a conversation, and I help to interpret what he wants and needs. It really is rewarding to see him light up when I can understand him. Even though Angel has literally nothing more than the clothes on his back and a makeshift tent, he always greets us with a smile. But you can tell he gets sad when we have to pack up and go. My job in the van is to fill and hand out bottles of either lemonade in the spring and summer or hot chocolate in the fall and winter. I stand at the back of the van and fill these up at each stop and hand them out. The people that we serve are so grateful for the food and supplies that we give them. Mostly though, they are just as happy to have someone to talk to and to have someone ask how they are.
If they ask for something that we don’t carry or are out of my mom will do her best to bring that item the next time. She will tell me to go take this can opener to White Hawk; lots of them have nicknames. My mom always brings some type of dog treats so that those that have dogs can give their pet a special treat. I think about all the different types of treats we have at home just for our one little dog. It gives you a different perspective to see someone so happy to receive something you and I don’t give a second thought about.
Here at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, we are presented with numerous opportunities. We are able to eat three meals and a snack every day. We are able to put on clean clothes, socks, and shoes. We are able to take showers and sleep in beds. Most importantly, we have the opportunity to connect with another person. Sometimes we hustle through our days but don’t really connect to another person.
So when you see someone new to you, or someone missing home, or maybe just someone who needs a friend, I ask that you remember my mom and her friends and take the opportunity to make someone else’s day. Who knows - maybe it will make your day just as much as you make theirs.