Years ago I worked at a school nestled in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, where former gang members, high school dropouts and disengaged, disenchanted youth from different races and backgrounds got a new lease on life, together. The school emphasized community, integrity and citizenship through a core set of guiding principles.
Our founding head of school – a Princeton grad and former teacher and circus performer who, prior to founding Eagle Rock School, directed the San Francisco and California Conservation Corps – was known, among many other things, for his sayings, pearls of encouragement and moral exhortations all-in-one.
“Find a need and fill it” was a favorite; if folks were running around, busy trying to accomplish a common task while you found yourself idly sitting around, the idea was to get up off your bee-hind and simply find something that needed to be done and do it, without waiting to be asked.
“Leave a place better than how you found it” was another. Whether this meant picking up a piece of trash spotted on a pathway and putting it in a garbage can as you walked to classes, straightening up cushions in the common gathering space after community meetings, or simply giving someone a hug who needed one, before you left a room, we were always reminded that each of us is a potential agent of positive change, wherever and whenever we choose to exercise our agency, however “small” or “large” our action.
“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” was a third. Again, we “Eagle Rockers” were reminded and encouraged to be proactive and engaged in working together to effect positive change and transformation in our community.
Find a need and fill it.
Leave a place better than how you found it.
If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.
Last Sunday, Jesus’ parable of the “Good Samaritan” lifted up a timeless, timely and life-giving message: that acts of mercy and compassion across barriers and dividing lines is The Way through these difficult days and times, in our city and our country.
These “Eagle Rock sayings” from years ago sing a similar tune.
Whatever you do, as a good friend of mine likes to say, don’t do nothin’.