"Spent the day at Daulatdia brothel, population 5000, where Save the Children Australia is providing education and protection services for the children of sex workers." So reads the latest Facebook update from one of the first friends I made my freshman year at Princeton, Liz Pearce. She's now the Education Director in Bangladesh for Save the Children. She's amazing--Nicholas Kristof-esque--and I am so proud to know her. We met in Spanish class (Friday mornings, 9 am!) during fall semester and both lived in ridiculously small doubles that were actually converted singles in Walker Hall. We often went running together late at night, and Liz leant me an outfit to wear to my first job interview, at Bloomberg in New York, when I had nothing professional to wear. She was kind and good back then, too, and always had her act together. You knew she was going to do great things. And she is!
Later that night, while running alone on the treadmill on my back porch after putting the kids to bed (ah, how life changes--no more cool evening runs around Princeton's beautiful campus for me), I was thinking about Liz and her work, and then about my own work, teaching. I have some great students this year: full of enthusiasm, funny, compassionate ... But of course each year there is also the loss of the whole graduating class and all that they brought to the school. Last year we had a senior who, on a whim, created "Birthday Club," the whole point of which was to recognize every single student in the school on his or her birthday. Birthday Club would enter the student's advisory (like a homeroom), sing a song, and give the celebrating student candy. I like to think of all the students whose day was made because of this start to it. Birthdays can be great, but also lonely. Such a simple, sweet idea. Organized kindness.
Finally, this got me thinking about all the lovely acts of unorganized kindness I have been on the receiving end of. One of the kindest things someone ever did for me was bring me cookies and hot chocolate. I had just gone back to work full time, and I had a six-month old and two year old at home. I also had three preparations, including a 9th grade English class I had never taught before. I was hardly sleeping or eating. I honestly prayed for snow every day, even in September, and didn't know how I was ever going to make it through the year. This was where I was one October morning, after a long night, a long commute, and no breakfast (no lunch packed, either), when Sheila Gerson, an aide who had sometimes, in the past, sat in on my Spanish class during her break, showed up at my room with the warm hot chocolate and cookies. "Thought you might like these," she said with a smile. I could have cried. Even now, five years later, I can recall the desperation I was feeling before she showed up, and the gratitude I felt when she did.
So, here's to all those who are bringing much needed love and light to this world. From the truly incredible work of Liz in Bangladesh to the simple kindnesses of my students and colleagues, there are so many good people doing good things. Thank you to you all!