The other day at school my 12 and 13 years old class experienced a crisis. The number of upper school students has swelled from somewhere in the high teens to something like twenty-three or twenty-four students. Normally, that would not be a big deal, but for my class it meant a crisis.
The school only supplied twenty book lockers for students up to that point. It purchased ten more to accommodate the growing student population. The problem was that the new lockers were apparently more desireable than the old lockers. By a process of seniority, the oldest class, made up of five students, immediately took five of the ten new lockers.
So what’s the problem? I now have nine students, and all nine students would love to have one of the five remaining new lockers. We had a very intense minute while students were debating who should get the new lockers. Some students actually jumped out of their chairs to go claim what was “theirs.”
So what do I do? Lottery? First come, first served? Say that no one gets a new locker? I would love to hear your thoughts about what I should do.
In the meantime, I handled the dilemma by asking students to consider our school’s success orientations in making a decision. The success orientations include kindness/politeness, responsibility, concern for others, trustworthiness, group interaction, independent endeavor and aesthetic appreciation. It’s how we want our students “to be.”
The discussion deepened fairly quickly to a question about why we desire new things. Some students began saying that they really didn’t want a new locker anyway, because their existing locker worked just fine. Others (some of the more empathetic and generous) even suggested letting the grade below us (with fewer students) have the lockers.
I don’t know if the problem is completely solved, but I hope that students have begun thinking about the deeper questions that exist side by side with this simple math problem.
Before leaving for Kazakhstan, my brother John gave me an old pair of insulated work boots to use when the weather gets cold, muddy and icy. He told me he no longer needed them, and that he would like to give them to me. I took them, and I am so glad that I did. They are an old pair of Lacrosse boots that have seen better days. But when I put my feet into them, I love what they represent. I immediately think of my incredible brother John, I think of his kindness, his love, and his generosity. I am so thankful for the reminder that my family is not just as a theoretical concept. It is real, and because of it, my feet are warm.
Perhaps the connection between boots and lockers is tenuous. But I’m not so sure. Maybe we need to slow down a little bit as we struggle to make ends meet and look at what works, keep on using it, and only replace what really needs to be replaced. After all, you never know what joy lies waiting for you in an old pair of boots. Here are those old boots in all their glory.
John, thank you for the boots, and thank you for being my brother.