Yes, I am a very proud dad. But most of my readers are involved in education, so what lessons can we share with our students from what follows? At least two, I think: the powerful link between passion and purpose, and the untapped potential of “one person doing”.
As many of you know, our daughter, Cassidy, is a member of the USA National Volleyball Team. That means she has risen to the absolute pinnacle of her sport. What most don’t know is that since she was ten years old, every time her left foot touches the ground she experiences a jolt of pain, and the harder it touches, like the thousands of times a week she jumps or does leg presses in the weight room, it hurts even more. She has a seemingly incurable issue with major nerves. Unlike other injuries that all high-level athletes incur, it does not repair in the off-season. After walking on crutches for seven months when she was in 4th grade, she decided she would start walking, and then playing volleyball again, which even then was her passion. I have no idea how she deals with the daily pain and still performs at the highest level; I would have given up a long time ago.
That is why, when Cass decided to teach a series of charity clinics, she chose as the recipient, the Ronald McDonald Houses. You can read and share the article that she wrote before the clinics, and here is the wrap-up video as she thanks all those who helped raise more than $10,000 this last spring and summer:
Here are the lessons I think we can all share. First, what a blessing to find a purpose that can be furthered through our individual passions! How might we, as educators, imagine school as a place dedicated to that simple goal for our students? What if that link between passion and purpose formed the core of our school vision statements? I know we all believe it is worthy, but do we help students build learning experiences around finding purpose with their passions?
Second, the act of “doing” is so powerful, not just for those on the receiving end, but for those on the doing end. When Cass was a rising young volleyball star, I reminded her how much she had looked up to (worshiped) the “big girls” on the court when she was a little kid. She started making a point of getting the varsity team to cheer on the middle school team. When she went away to Stanford she returned to help at school-level camps. She started to write and speak about leadership, teamwork, persistence, adversity, and passion. Now she weaves a message for her young players about the higher purposes they can achieve when they are on and off the court. Sure, the families who get to use Ronald McDonald House when their kids are sick benefit from the money Cass raised. But those who gave their time to coach; who made an extra donation; and the kids who came, learned, and listened…their lives will be enriched much more if they find a way to “play with a purpose” of their own. Kids think of themselves as small and less powerful than adults, and we can help them see that nothing is further from the truth. They don’t have to wait until they are old or famous to find the rich benefits of “doing”.