I was sitting towards the back of Mr. Hendrick’s math class. I was decent at math for an eighth grader but it wasn’t my favorite subject. I didn’t have many close friends in junior high. I knew most of the kids at school; I had lived most of my life in Boyertown and knew all the names of the kids from my elementary school. But half way through junior high I was still meeting people. Mr. Hendrick wasn’t the most exciting teacher. I had spent most of the class wondering why he decided to become a math teacher. I had just decided that his bald head and short stature must had been deciding factors when the bell rang and everyone scrambled to put away their materials and get out. My next class was English, which I did not enjoy because of the lack of windows and boring posters about adjectives and verbs, all of which I had read hundreds of times already. I was up and out walking down the poorly lit hall lined with tall, burnt orange lockers; flowing with the rest of crowd toward my next class. I nearly ran into the two kids in front of me when they stopped suddenly. Showing off his bright Hawaiian boxers as he bent over one of the kids picked up a notebook. I noticed another kid further up ahead. This one I recognized, a popular football player. I had seen him horsing around in the locker room, getting ready for football as I got ready for soccer. His book bag was open and his books had fallen out. He quickly picked up his books but didn’t notice the missing notebook, which had fallen out earlier. As the current of people flowed onward, I watched as boxer boy and his friend joked and made fun of the football player. As they passed through the fire doors they tossed the notebook in the trash, laughed some more and took a left down the other hall. I had come to a crossroad. I had seen the whole episode first hand. I didn’t hate the football player or particularly enjoy that the football players filled up so much of the locker room and carried on as they did. I didn’t know nor had seen before boxer boy or his friend and the notebook was completely invaluable to me.
Often times I come to the decision, to help or not to help. More often than not it seems better for me not to help. There are so many reasons; embarrassment from misjudging, the effort needed to help, my own responsibilities and agendas, and of course the ever present, “would it really matter?” There were over 6.5 billion people on the planet and one of them had just lost a notebook. Was it worth the effort? I’m sad to admit that I don’t respond to this question correctly every time but I am sure of the answer. It is of course yes. It is always worth the effort to help and if I don’t, who will? In the case of the missing notebook, no one else will. I was the only observer. I was the only one in that crowded hallway who knew all the facts. I knew both parties involved. I knew where the notebook was hidden awaiting its destruction. And most importantly, I knew all too well what it felt like to lose homework. It was my opportunity to act.
As I reflect on picking up that notebook and giving it to the football player, I remember everyone matters and everything matters. Even the smallest things can mean a great deal to others. Even the smallest amount of help can seem like a lifesaver. I believe that the opportunity to help someone should never be passed by.
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