Each year, seniors at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School deliver a speech to their peers on a topic of their choosing in the Newhall Auditorium. Often equal parts clever and moving, emotional and personal, each speech offers a glimpse into the lives, experiences, struggles, and triumphs of SSM seniors.
Throughout the 2018-19 school year, we will share these speeches with the SSM community and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.
Gratitude. This word is often passed around on holidays among family members and loved ones. But what does it really mean? What does it truly mean to be grateful, and how do we show our gratitude?
In 2010, a devastating 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti, killing hundreds of thousands of people and displacing many more. Then, in 2016, Hurricane Matthew hit the island, ripping apart what little infrastructure the country had left, leaving it completely destroyed and a large population of people homeless. Two years later, less than 5% of the country has recovered from these devastating events.
This past year, I was lucky enough to go on a medical mission trip to Haiti with my family. During this trip, we worked with IMR, International Medical Relief, to help bring relief and medical treatment to the people of Haiti.
Before this trip, I had never been to a developing country, and when we arrived it was a shock. On the bus to our hotel, I saw people huddled in shacks, boys and girls younger than me - who should have been in school - running barefoot down the trash-covered streets. I saw men in rags digging in piles of sewage. And I saw rubble, piles and piles of rubble.
We worked for a week and traveled to three different locations to set up medical centers. From sunup till sundown, we brought aid to anyone who walked through our doors. Hundreds of people, young and old, lined up to seek help, standing all day in the sun for the possibility of being seen and treated. Often at the end of the day we were forced to shut our doors, leaving those who hadn’t been seen out on the streets. This broke my heart, because I wanted to help everyone, but there was only so much we could do with the resources we had.
Even after all they had been through, the Haitian people were kind and understanding, thanking us for our efforts. No matter where we went, this stood out to me, and probably was the most memorable part of the trip. They were so incredibly grateful.
The last day we were there, we traveled up into the mountains to help a small village. The village was centered around a charter school, and there were hundreds of children there. I noticed one little girl in particular. She was about seven and had come with her grandma to get treatment. I was on vitals that day, and therefore I was outside walking down the line of people taking their heart rate, blood pressure and temperature. When I got to her, she gave me the biggest smile. She let me check her, and after I finished she gave me a gigantic hug.
At first, I was surprised by the gesture, unsure what I had done to deserve it. Then she said, “Merci,” returning in line with her grandmother. This single act has stuck with me, and it reminds me that we should always be grateful for the smallest acts of kindness and the moments in life that we don’t always appreciate.
Here we are given the opportunity to go to school, eat regular meals, and live in houses with electricity and running water. But many of us take this for granted. I’m not saying we should stop living our lives in comfort just because there are those who don’t have as much as we do. But we should be more conscious and take a moment each day to be grateful for the life and opportunities we all have, because there’s a little girl or boy out there that dreams and wishes to have half as much as we do.
So what is gratitude? Its a word that is not commonly enough used, with extreme importance and influence. A word we should all strive to embody each and every day. I want to specially thank my family, and friends that give me so much to be grateful for. I love you guys.