It’s the little things


As a follow up from a few weeks ago, Leadership class has only gotten more hectic and more amazing. I finally got the chance to work with SSD students, and it was so much fun! They really are so great to be around. I did not really know what to think going into it because I did not know their personalities or how I would have to act. But I quickly learned that there is not much acting with them at all. For the most part, they are just like you and me. Some of them, if I had seen them out in public, I would not have even guessed that they were part of the SSD program. When we eat lunch with them it is so easy to carry on a conversation, and what they have to say is genuinely interesting and entertaining. Sometimes I laugh harder from being with them than I do with my own friends at lunch! And for those of them who are younger and experience more difficulties, it is almost no different. Sure, they require a little more help, but they appreciate our presence so much, and that look on their faces every other day never gets old. It’s amazing how the little things can impact us so much. For us, it’s their appreciation, laughs, smiles, and conversations. For them, it simply is just us being there and enjoying our time together.

In addition to this amazing experience with the buddies, we also had a guest speaker, Jesse Sellars, on Wednesday, Nov. 20. A little background on Jesse; he served two tours in Iraq and was the Captain for the Third Calvary Division. His unit was so successful in rooting out Al Quaeda in Tel Afar (a city in Iraq) that they attempted to assassinate Jesse three times. His unit was attacked an average of seven times a day and suffered heavy losses and severe casualties. What is even more amazing is that regardless of these attacks, Jesse never horriblized or blamed the people of Iraq. President Bush recognized him in speeches across the country as the “Pied Piper of Tel Afar” because of his efforts to gain the trust of the people there, particularly the children. Jesse is now currently the COO for Technical Management Services, a contracting company that services the defense intelligence agencies and service branches by offering a variety of courses, including leadership. Jesse is also a spokesperson for a foundation called Operation Never Forgotten, which helps wounded warriors coming home readapt to civilian life, especially those dealing with things like  Post- Tramatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). It also cares for the families who lost members in the war.

When Jesse came, he spoke to us about his experiences in war, and how it helped him grow as a leader. He has also read the book we read over the summer, “Anatomy of Peace,” as well as the book we are currently reading, “Coach K,” and mentioned general concepts from both books. He helped us create a plan in finding ourselves by setting goals and defining our morals and values, too. And somehow, he found a way to constantly tie all of these things together. However, he was no ordinary speaker. Jesse, though close to death many times, was very much alive, energetic, and comical. There’s almost no word to define his character. He just seemed very easy to listen to, and he makes you want to follow him and trust him. Which made our surprises for him that much better to give.

Over the course of the past four or five weeks, the leadership classes worked hard to raise money for Operation Never Forgotten. Posters were hung all around school to advertise, and each group from each class had their own ideas and fundraisers for it. These included things like asking for donations at sporting events, having “Dine and Donate” Nights at restaurants, selling Gus’s pretzels at lunches, holding a raffle, and much much more. In the end, we raised $5,000, and presented the check to Jesse at the end of his session. In addition, we presented him with a Leadership hoodie that matches ours. Jesse was giddy for the hoodie, and the money for Operation Never Forgotten literally brought him to tears.

Again, it’s the little things.

Don’t get me wrong, raising $5,000 was no little thing, but to him it meant so much more than what we thought. Sometimes, things in life are just so much bigger than you, and you don’t even realize it. That is what we experienced. As we raised that money, I don’t know that we ever really, REALLY, thought about what we were doing or what impact it could make. We just set a lofty goal, and busted our butts to reach it. But handing that check to Jesse made me realize just how much we had actually done, not only for him but for all those families. We could tell it really hit home for him though, and I’ve never felt so good about doing something for someone else before. But then again, I’ve never had a chance to do something so big before, and I’m so happy that being in Leadership class gave me this opportunity. It is just one of the many benefits I receive from this class, but it is one of the most rewarding. Making his day, that felt good. But making $5,000 worth of other people’s days, that felt indescribable. And it was so worth every bit of work we did.