Friday, May 11, 2007
"Be the Change" at CCHS
Editor's note: According to the challengeday.org web site, the "Be the Change" Movement consists of "like-minded individuals linked by a common desire to make a positive change in the world around them." Our CCHS correspondent describes her experience in the program.
"Everyone in our school should have been there."
"It was the most incredible experience of my life."
"I feel like a whole new person."
These are just a few examples of the widespread CCHS reaction to a program, called Challenge Day, held on April 30 and May 1. Each day, 100 students from all four grades got together with 25 faculty and parents for a life-changing seven and a half hours, during which two program leaders encouraged adults and kids alike to "be the change," referring to Ghandi's wise words, "We must be the change we wish to see in the world."
For some kids, "Be the Change" was not exactly their idea of the best day ever. A video clip from Oprah was shown two months ago to encourage kids to sign up. It was a sappy 20 minutes full of hugs, tears, secrets revealed, apologies made and more hugs. However 200 students still were willing to see what this "change" was all about, especially those who felt a greater need to be heard, like the METCO students and other minorities at C-C.
After the first day, I met some friends who had just finished the program. They seemed to have been put into some sort of trance. All they could say was "It was amazing. It was incredible. I loved it" The mantra sounded like some brainwashed marketing, but it's understandable to me now. After I went through the experience on May 1, those same remarks keep running through my head. I was a very different person after Challenge Day. You can't cry in front of 99 peers and be comforted by people you don't know and not be changed.
The awkwardness you'd think would be connected to the program was nowhere to be found. From the "Be the Change" activities, I've come to understand that things are only as strange and as "bad" as we make them. If someone cried in the cafeteria, a stranger hugging them would merit rude comments and harassment. However, after just two hours with Program leaders Jyoti and Jon, all of those "norms" were stripped away.
How did this happen? How did 100 students find themselves "booty dancing" with someone they had never met? How did I find myself apologizing to people I'd hurt — over a microphone? How did the "tough guys" and the "popular girls" and the "freaks" all find the courage to face up to their fears, to cry, hug and support each other?
Even when I tell you, you'll find it hard to understand. After an hour or two of intense "get to know each other" games with Jon and Jyoti, I had high-fived, hugged, or shaken hands with everyone in the room whom I didn't already know. Already, that's more touching that most of us do in one day. I'm not just talking kids either —sometimes I was paired with an adult I didn't know or a teacher I'd never had, but they were just as nervous and unsure as I was and just as excited about making a difference.
In our small "family sharing" groups, we were each given uninterrupted time to get out whatever we wanted to say to a huddled group of five or six. The basis for these conversations wrapped around "dropping the waterline." This analogy relates to the iceberg of each human being, 10% of which floats above the waterline. That is the "fake" face we put on everyday. The 90% hidden underneath is where the big stuff lies —dreams, fears, true opinions, true emotions, love, feelings and all that other good stuff that we've been hiding for one reason or another. According to "Be the Change," dropping this line of mine can actually change my life and make me a better and happier person.
The skeptical students who looked down on this program, and those who still do, need to realize that the subjects that arise during Challenge Day are not the kind you just discuss quickly and disregard. Challenge Day had nothing to do with evaluating our own issues or trying to solve someone else's problems. Challenge Day had everything to do with dropping our waterline so that we are more vulnerable, more susceptible to sharing ourselves in order to bring our school closer.
For me, the most powerful 30 minutes of the day came during the "Power Shuffle," affectionately known as "Cross the Line." During "Cross the Line," categories are called out. If a category applies to you, you cross a big line in the center of the room. The exercise requires complete vulnerability — not only are you physically placing yourself across from people who don't deal with your struggle, but they get to stare at you. But the second you turn around after crossing the blue mark, the fear and embarrassment fades. You look around and see people to your left and right who have also crossed over, who do suffer the same as you. Back where you came from, those who can't relate show their support by holding high the international sign for "I Love You," the thumb, forefinger and pinky held up with your middle two fingers down. For the day, this symbol means "I love you, I got you, I support you, I respect you, and I'm here for you." It represents all that "Be the Change" stands for.
Those who took part in "Be the Change" are trying to bring it back next year. With all the positive talk floating around, student government is thinking about making it an annual occurrence, and eventually making it mandatory for all kids. I believe that the 200 kids who were involved this time can change our school, but if all of us took part, the high school stereotypes would be broken and we would be living in a new and better sort of world.
I'm happy that Challenge Day was brought to CCHS and is getting such a glowing response, making us better individually and as a whole.
© 2007 The Carlisle Mosquito