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With the countdown on for the end of the school year, I have my students creating photo essays. For their photo essays they are to take one of the themes that we have examine in World Literature throughout the year either persuade their audience or tell a story. The most important things I want them to do though are to capture their own images and to have a coherent, unifying statement. However, this post isn’t really about their projects, but about our last theme of the year: Personal Legend and Social Responsibility.

One of the guiding questions we look at with this theme is, “What is the individual’s obligation to the greater community and world as a whole?” This is also followed by the question, “What must we contribute?”

As I was talking to my students today, I was able to share with them an experience I had yesterday that perfectly fits in to this theme. It is this experience that I am also going to share with you now…

Yesterday evening (about 6:30) I was driving home after picking up dinner. As I was driving, I got to the point where one of the roads in town turns into a highway near a gas station and the road is 2 lanes going one way at this particular area. It is at this point that people always start to drive faster and pick up speed, while also merging into one lane. I was just about to increase my speed and hurry my way home to eat the food I had just picked up from a restaurant. However, in the middle of the two lanes there was a man (I assume older, but I couldn’t tell) driving his motorized wheelchair down the road. Normally around town, the people who have the motorized wheelchairs stick to the sidewalks or the shoulders of the roads if there isn’t a sidewalk.

So when I saw this man in the wheelchair in the middle of the road, I of course came to a stop. I could see the man’s hand on the control and it seemed like he was trying to get his chair to turn, but it just wouldn’t follow those commands. As I came to as top in the left lane, coming up on the right lane was a silver pickup truck. (Don’t ask me the make or model, I didn’t even notice.) After sitting there for a little while, parallel to me, the truck began to slowly creep forward. I automatically assumed that the driver was going to go around the man and continue on down the road. –And this is why we should never assume…I felt like an “ass” after this as the driver proved me wrong.

Instead of going around the man and continuing on, the driver of the pickup truck pulled over to the side and parked. Out hopped a young man – I would guess him to be about the age of my seniors or in his early 20s. This young man then walked over to the man in the wheelchair and began talking to him. I could not hear the conversation that they had because my windows were rolled up, but what I did see what the young man looking at the controls and the wheelchair. After a little while, the young man helped the man in the wheelchair to the side of the road by guiding his chair to the shoulder near the road leading in to the gas station.

During this exchange, more cars had come to a stop behind me. The wonderful things about all of this was that we all recognized the kindness being shown in front of us. No one began honking or yelling out the window to move along. Instead, everyone waited for this young man to show us all that we all have a responsibility to one another. That we should all contribute in the smallest, but largest of ways.

Our social responsibility to one another does not just come from the grand gestures that get covered in the news, but they come from the small, every day kind gestures of looking out for one another. Is it wonderful when a company donates $500,000? Of course it is. But it is even more meaningful when we stop and take a moment to help those around us. It is more meaningful to help someone pick up the papers they dropped, or to hold a door open for someone whose arms are full. It’s more meaningful to help out the mother with the three children, or to pick up the trash someone left behind.

With all of the fighting and name calling we see going on in the political race right now, it was nice to see the good will shown toward that older man by the young driver. I don’t think the young man asked him what his political views were before he helped him, because in the grand scheme of things we are all the same. These are the actions that bring us all closer together.

Please feel free to share any examples you may have of social responsibility that you may have witnessed or done yourself. I would love to continue to share!

And “May the 4th Be With You” on this Wednesday!