Recently, a student asked me an interesting question – what I hoped my legacy would be from being at the College. Initially, I was unsure if we shared a common understanding of the word. It has become apparent to me, since this time, that many people have slightly different understandings of this term, and yet it is used quite frequently in politics, business and when people are leaving an organisation after a period of significant service. In reality, a person’s legacy can be seen most accurately in those individuals affected by their actions.
I have heard College leaders, past and present talk about their legacy and what it means to them. They all want to make a difference to other people and to the community. When truly selfless people choose to discuss a legacy, it is never with an ego, but rather with a heart of generosity and altruism. Those who seek to help others for ego, never truly connect with a cause or with a person – they simply don’t get it.
Like many others, I enjoy helping others and in supporting others who do so. Last year, while watching one of our students at Lions Youth of the Year, one of the elderly volunteers was talking to me about why he donated so much of his time to helping others. He said he was motivated by the words of an author and poet who said, “The life of a man (or woman) consists not in seeing visions and in dreaming dreams, but in active charity and in willing service” (I loved this statement and wrote it down immediately). I was intrigued by my conversation and so I met with him over coffee a few days later to talk about life as he saw it. He believed in dreaming big and in people living a purposeful and rewarding life, but he saw purpose and reward in the relationships formed with others. To him, life was nothing without personal connections and relationships, without the commitment to another person, and the heart and willingness to make a better life for all.
I have met John several times since and together we enjoy a bite to eat, a discussion on what is really important in life, and sometimes our disappointment in the many destructive behaviours we see in society. I find these moments refreshing and in fact quite inspiring, as it reinforces that there are many people who truly believe in creating a meaningful legacy. I can certainly tell you that John’s legacy will forever be with me – his gift was special – he made a difference in my life.
Many, many years ago I was responsible for coordinating a school’s charity drive to support the Red Cross. I remember speaking to one boy and trying to convince him to participate in a doorknock appeal; he asked me how much I thought each student would collect; he then went to his wallet and gave me a hundred dollars and said, “There, I have doubled this. Do I have to do this now?” I have never forgotten this young man, and sadly, I could never get him to see what concerned me so greatly about his thought processes on that day.
Our College aims to develop the concept of legacy through many vehicles, but probably most predominantly in our Service-learning program. Our Director of Positive Education and Learning, Ms Toni Kirton states this beautifully:
“The College Mission is to ‘challenge the individual to achieve, and to act with purpose and character.’ Each student has open to them a range of learning activities at the College, through both our academic program and our co-curricular activities, which allow each student the opportunity to grow as an individual and to find purpose in the experiences they are afforded. One such example of these opportunities is the College’s commitment to both our Service-learning Program and our community charities.
Some may wonder, what does Service-learning involve and how does this differ from community service? Service-learning is an experiential learning pedagogy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection, to enhance the learning experience and achieve identified outcomes (National Service-Learning Clearing-house, 2013). It is our belief that young people are our greatest resource. Through Service-learning, our students learn real life skills, contribute to their communities and learn that they have a responsibility to serve their community.
Service-learning complements our Teaching for Understanding approach and is integrated within a number of classes in our Junior School and our SELF program in the Senior School.
In March this year, students in Years 10 and 11 began their Service-learning program in partnership with Wesley Mission Youngcare Apartments Coomera, building upon the program that commenced in 2014 under the guidance of Mrs Annette Boyle.
By participating in Service-learning and supporting our community charities, students will understand the value of engagement with their community – local to global – and they will contribute actively to making a meaningful difference in that community.”
The best way our students can learn about themselves is to learn about others, the best way they can truly understand themselves is to understand others and, as Mahatma Gandhi said, “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”. We all need to find ourselves to understand those around us.
Although we have families from many different backgrounds, and have different levels of financial support, we are all privileged, and yet how often do we consider ourselves such? Humility commences with genuine appreciation for what we have and a valuing of the most important things in life. Money, cars, belongings can all be taken from us, but what can never be taken from us is who we truly are and the relationships we have formed through genuine respect and love. Only we can give these away through our actions.
As we go to our Term 3 holidays, and with many families enjoying overseas trips, let us not forget that the most important journey is the one we take with each other.
I wish you a wonderful break from the normal routines of the school day and hope that we can all use this time to focus on what is truly important, look to reduce conflict with those around us, and seek to build the most important assets we have with others – our enduring and everlasting relationships.