The last day of school came unexpectedly for sure. That Thursday we had finished up a workshop with elementary school students on ways to improve their school environment. We were cleaning up after the event. Then we gathered around as we were discussing the club’s schedule and some of what had transpired that day: the spring show being cancelled, rumblings that the band trip would suffer the same fate, and concerns about the delay of spring sports. Mr. Bailey remarked that we should get to work on planning things to boost morale because “this may have been the saddest day at PHS.” A lot of things that many students had to look forward to were over for the time being.
That next morning, prior to school, it was announced that school would halt in-person instruction for the next few weeks. It was a bizarre atmosphere at school. Most everyone believed that the cancellation was temporary, but there was some sense that this could last the rest of the year. In everything that the Cheetos Club had experienced, with everything it had in its toolbox to spread kindness, there was nothing that prepared any of us for such a massive pause in life.
This uncertainty persisted, there were many questions, and few answers. It was not the end to a school year that anyone would have wanted. However, in all of this worry and uncharted territory, it allowed many students, including myself, to peel back the layers and recognize what really matters. The Cheetos Club is an organization that has a mission of kindness. The way I interpret this mission is that it is about what really matters. Many don’t like school for the building, or don’t like it for the desks, or for the schedule, and some would argue that they don’t really care for school at all. People often like school for the experiences and the people they get to share those experiences with.
The recent events that have transpired in the world pried a lot of people away from others with whom they enjoy sharing time. This isolation reveals what really does matter. As we move on from high school, you won’t remember that test, you won’t remember the direction you walked to class, and you won’t remember what you had for lunch. What you will remember many years from now is that person who helped you study for a test, who you walked with to class, and who you had lunch with. You will remember the people that make differences in your life, even in the littlest ways.
Understanding that impactful relationships are what really matter is a product of our time apart. Our experiences in an age of social distancing have reinforced the Cheetos Club’s mission to build relationships with people and leave them with lasting memories that will stick with them beyond high school. I look back at that Thursday afternoon listening to Mr. Bailey. He was correct that there was a lot of disappointment in that day, and that was even before everyone recognized the full scope of challenges that would come to face our world. A lot of disappointment would follow that statement, but I don’t want disappointment to be the take-away from this peculiar time.
What I want to remember is that I have been part of a group that had just helped a bunch of elementary students with ways to improve their school. I want to remember that we did not just sigh and roll over from the moment of hearing disappointing news. That instant, the Cheetos Club began planning a way to cheer everyone up on what ended up being the last day of the school year. The Cheetos Club has continued its activities in engaging with the student body and the community during its time apart. How powerful is it to know that the work of a student club kept going. In a time of everything “non-essential” coming to a halt, the Cheetos Club continued, showing that our work is essential – it is what really matters.
It takes careful reflection to recognize all the positives that have emerged during this time when we cannot meet in person. I invite everyone to take this time to continue their reflection and look at what you have done and what you can do to focus on what really matters. Find who matters to you and let them know. Find what matters to you and go do it. Understand how kindness matters in your life and go share that with the world. The most simple things are those that can stick with us. Do those simple things for others; they will bring you a new outlook during difficult times.