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An Endless Call to Serve

March 28, 2014

Over spring break I became increasingly aware of a sort of “need to do” mentality among the millennial generation. I loosely define it as an unwillingness to do anything that isn’t needed or required. This can take the form of something simple like walking past a piece of litter (“do I really have to pick that up?”) to choosing not to provide added value to a project, event or relationship (“I’ve done my part”).

I began thinking about this issue after spending a weekend with friends who work with Teach For America. “Millennials are tough,” lamented my friend who is working to open a new TFA site on top of his 60-hour a week job supporting young teachers across Boston. “They’ll do the minimum of whatever they’re asked to do and then quit if it’s not fun or if things get too difficult.” Last week, a St. Andrew’s classmate told me over dinner that he recently interviewed more than 20 candidates for a position and came away empty. “They were all more interested in being CEO than putting in the work to get there.” He went back to his dinner, ending my line of questioning and implying that this is just the new world we live in.

If there is, in fact, a down market for finding motivated, hard working, creative problem solvers then there is also tremendous opportunity. Tad continues to challenge all of us to seize it; to work our tails off for ourselves and for each other; to contribute, connect and engage every day to the absolute best of our abilities.

It’s why I was heartened this week to see about 20 kids instinctively jump up and try to help when a fellow student dropped a tray filled with plates and silverware during Wednesday night dinner. Kids promptly cleaned it up while others asked if she was okay. At the tail end a senior boy came whisking out of the kitchen with a mop to finish the job. Lindsay Brown then sat down next to me to say that Chef Ray greeted the crew program an hour earlier with two giant containers of hot chocolate as they came off the pond for no other reason than he imagined they were cold and could use the pick-me-up. Later that night, sophomore Preston Firestone joined a senior tutorial because he loves to write and the class gave him that chance above and beyond his already full course load. On the other side of campus, Stuart Chair in English Elizabeth Roach was trying to learn game theory from Aaron Chang ’14.

None of these activities will show up on a transcript or resume. None of them were exactly fun. None were required or needed to be done. They happened because we believe in an ethic of hard work, exploration and kindness. We don’t always hit our own high mark, but we get out of bed each morning knowing that beyond our day’s extensive checklist awaits a sea of opportunity to help others, learn more and to give more of ourselves, wherever it is needed.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. James Borghardt permalink
    April 9, 2014 6:29 pm

    Two questions I often ask myself: If not me, then whom? If not now, then when? These two questions reach to the core of leadership and service. Every day, each of us is given the choice to act or not act. Developing leaders with service at their core is a rare trait. I am forever grateful to St. Andrew’s for both the development of my leadership through service skills, and those same skills I see in most of my fellow alums.

    • April 9, 2014 9:46 pm

      Those are two great questions to live by, James. Thank you for sharing and for your appreciation of the St. Andrew’s education. Best, Will ’97

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