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September 1, 2010 / Melissa

Learn, Serve, Lead: Leaving a Legacy

Lesson six: A central tendency of your character is developed during high school, sometimes in an unconscious way.  These traits appear years later, at a point you least expect, but one realizes that such turmoil of adolescence – and the people who saw you through it – was actually worth it.

I realize that the teaser to this post was published long before the words that follow.  I had to think a bit about this for a while.  And, I suppose it is fitting to make this post now, at the start of a new school year for some and when the last vestiges of summer are turning into the beginning traces of autumn.  A time for new beginnings, yet a time to reflect on the lessons of the summer.

My beloved high school will not be opening its doors to fine young women this year.  After nearly 60 years of operation, the school closed for a variety of reasons.  I was fortunate enough to attend the closing mass, share in the joys and sorrow of my Regina sisters who saw the journey through, and reflect of some magical years I spent in a plaid skirt and knee socks.  The most clear message that truly spoke to me was my school’s dedication to live out its motto – Learn, Serve, Lead – even in times of turmoil, heartache, and adversity.  As I watched friends, former teachers, teammates and coaches mourn the loss of their school yet still come in day in and day out to give the gift of such a special education, I realized the importance of this example and lasting legacy.  What a testament to the community to continue charity work, Clown Ministry, Harvest for Hunger, and completing countless hours of community service hours while everyone was obviously deeply saddened and hurting inside.

This past year when my life seemed out of whack, I turned to the comfort of such behaviors.  I cried my eyes out on my version of the auditorium’s green stage steps.  And then I got out of my self-sorrow by serving others.  It’s hard to feel poorly about yourself when you feel the love of helping someone else out.  A family member asked me once why I did so much community service work.  My answer was, why not?  I didn’t have a job, my heart was aching with the loss of a 6 year relationship, and I barely seemed to be on solid ground.  But when I volunteered at the Race for the Cure and saw women with a double mastectomy running 5Ks, worked at Vera House’s Clothesline project and saw over 200 t-shirts depicting abuse, violence, and sexual assault and the subsequent emotional damage, and volunteered at the Rite Aide Cleveland Marathon and saw a woman run a marathon honoring the life of her running mate who had just passed away tragically a month earlier, what did I really have to feel sorry about?

This basic foundation was established in high school through service learning hours.  Even in the dark times of adolescence, when we are supposed to be so self-centered, we stepped out of our “stuff” and gave back.  So what do yo do when all else seems to not be going well in your life?  Give back.  Karma comes around, but the greatest legacy one can leave is continually learning about oneself and the ways of the world, serving others while also serving their Higher Being and then serving themselves as a byproduct (in a healthy way), and leading through life with an example of character, determination, and dignity.

Thank you my dear Regina girls for reminding me how to do that.  Thanks for being my sisters on that journey.

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