Humble Heroes

Marie Brockhoff and Campbell Helling, Copy

The ancient Greeks believed that the god Atlas held up the weight of the world. Since the world descended into chaos this March, the world’s problems have felt similarly crushing. In spite of all this, many students and faculty members have decided to do what they can to make the world a better place, one small action at a time. 

Eighth grader Merrit Hale has been a part of the National Charity League (NCL) since before quarantine and has since done several projects. “I’ve done a park cleanup, and we’ve made a couple lunches with gloves and masks on to deliver to the Ballard center and LINK,” she says. The NCL is a nationwide organization that creates community service opportunities for mothers and their daughters. 

Other students chose a less structured approach to community service, instead doing their part to brighten the days of family and friends. Seventh grader Jace Hoffman says that he worked around his neighborhood by “Lawn mowing and babysitting . . . for neighbors and my own house.”

Similarly, sixth grader Ka’Neisha Price read books to a family friend’s young daughter over Zoom. “Her dad had mentioned that she had a hard time falling asleep, and so I decided that I could read to her,” she says. “They were children’s books that we had from a while ago, from when we were kids.” 

Junior Jude Black also worked to serve the broader Lawrence community. “I’ve been working on a mural made out of plastic bottle caps that you can’t recycle, and it’s a mural with a phoenix rising above some hills into the sky,” he says. Black began working on the piece in 2019, as a part of the project Art Place America, which he got involved with through the Lawrence Arts Center. Black’s mural, called “Apotheosis,” will be unveiled in East Lawrence in October. 

Black’s mural “Symbolize[s] the troubles that East Lawrence has gone through and how they’re going towards a brighter future,” he says. Although critical of his own art, Black is working to beautify an often overlooked sector of the Lawrence community. “I’m trying to put a small piece of artwork down there so I can draw attention to all the good art that’s going on down there,” he says. 

While Black wants to inspire Lawrencians through art, faculty member Cris Bryan started from the ground up. This year, Bryan volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, building a house from scratch. “I’ve always been interested in building, so I decided to find out what it would take to volunteer . . . You just have to be willing to learn,” she says. 

As one would expect, construction takes a lot of work. “I’ve put up siding on the outside, sheet rock on the inside, trimmed out the windows on the outside, we’ve done painting, we built a shed, we’ve done roofing, one day I just shoveled gravel for four hours,” she says. “Whatever they need me to do.” 

Volunteering has countless upsides for the helpers as well as the helped. For Bryan, helping others has made her feel she had a “little bit of control in helping our society” in all this chaos. Bryan’s favorite part was “getting to know the other volunteers and the homeowners, [and] getting to work alongside them as they build their own house. It’s pretty cool!” 

Price also benefited by volunteering. Reading to a family friend’s daughter has made her feel happy. “She liked it; she was really happy and smiling, and it made me feel good that she was having a good time,” she says. This Zoom interaction made it easy for Price to see other people without breaking quarantine rules. “It’s something that we can do and stay home for,” she says. 

Similarly, being able to volunteer with friends has made Hale’s experience during quarantine better. “It’s really nice to be outside, with some of my friends in my grade,” she says. The mother-daughter aspect of the NCL also helped, Hale says: “I like going out with my mom, because it’s a mother daughter thing.” 

For Black, volunteering by working on his mural has helped him pass the time during the long days and weeks of quarantine. “It’s just mindless work that I can do for a couple of hours while listening to a podcast,” he says. “It’s given me something to do with my time.” 

The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into some typical volunteer practices, not in the least because many community service opportunities have been cancelled. These Seahawks, however, were able to adapt to new protocols. Masks and social distancing became mandatory but nearly normal aspects of any volunteer job. Some, like Price, found innovative ways to help others, through digital programs like Zoom. 

The world’s problems are never-ending and seemingly Herculean in scale. But this spring and summer, many resilient members of the Seabury community did not accept defeat, instead finding small ways to help out, from reading over Zoom to building houses, always striving to make the world a better place.