Column by Jonathan Nagy
Picking up a newspaper, turning on the television, or surfing the web can be some of the most depressing activities one can do these days. The media sources are littered with bad news and are often focused on negative stories. Pointing out what is wrong with the world seems to be easier and better accepted than highlighting the good things.
Recently, I had one of my classes compile two lists. The first was a list of what is wrong in the world, and the second was a list of the things that were good. The list of negatives was significantly longer than the list of positives. I asked them why they think that is. Some of their answers included, “It is too difficult to always do the right thing,” “Many people always think that their view is the only view that matters,” and, most significantly, “No one can change those things on their own.”
I beg to differ!
Anyone who knows me, knows that I adopted a quote from Gandhi as my mantra: Be the change that you wish to see in the world. If the world is to change for the better, we have to be the ones to make it happen. To make an oversimplified example, imagine the electricity going out in a neighborhood. The power is out for hours and the neighbors are getting frustrated. They begin to talk to each other about how angry they are that nothing has been done. They then come to realize that no one has actually called the electric company to report the outage because they each thought someone else would do it! This is the reality that we live in today. People believe, “I can’t do anything on my own to change the future.”
I have the awesome privilege of working and interacting with some of the most amazing students in the world. They give me faith in the future with what they do day in and day out to help make the world the place that God intended it to be. I could go on page after page of examples of how they are doing this, but with limited space I will provide just a few.
A few weeks ago, I witnessed over 60 Bishop Carroll students willingly give up 7 hours of their Saturday afternoon and evening to host a Halloween Party for all of the students in the Prince Gallitzin Quadrant. The positive interactions between the teenagers and the young children would warm anyone’s heart. Not once did I hear a single helper complain. In fact, they asked what else they could do to make the event all that it could be for the children.
I am also impressed with the faith dedication that these students display. I have over 30 students in the Bishop Carroll Liturgical Choir, and a vast majority of those students are male. It takes a great deal of courage to sing in front of anyone, including one’s own peers. But yet these teenagers do so proudly, loudly, and worshipfully. I could say the same about my impressive choir at Saint Michael School. These children love singing and praising God and are an inspiration to all who hear them.
The way that my students support each other is also moving. In a driving rainstorm at Mansion Park, a large number of Bishop Carroll students were on hand to root on the Huskies Boys’ Soccer Team in the District Championship Game. The positive cheering all game long was a great sign of unity. Despite the weather conditions, no one left early and even when our team was down, no one stopped encouraging these athletes. I see the same result at any sporting event I go to involving our students. Our students care about each other and want each other to succeed in whatever they set out to accomplish.
My final example is less of an individual occasion but more of a daily occurrence. I notice little random acts of kindness all day long from my students. They greet me, other teachers, and each other. They pay honest compliments. They volunteer to help each other study and learn. They love life and are so appreciative of everything they have.
The students at BCCHS and the elementary schools have strong foundations in the faith, which begins with their families. I would like to believe that their extended school family has helped to strengthen and nurture their Christian identity. There is one thing that I know, without a doubt. These students will go out and change the world. Some may do grand things, but most will be just living their lives, doing the best they can, with the guidance of Jesus Christ. In the words of my Uncle Tom, who we lost this past summer to a tough battle with cancer, “Live your ordinary life extraordinarily.”
If we want the negatives in life to turn into positives, we cannot wait or expect someone else to do it for us. We can stop spreading bad gossip and in turn start spreading the good news of what those around us are doing. We can stop doing unhealthy things to ourselves, others, and the environment, and begin to make healthy choices and decisions. And most importantly, we need to stop looking at what we don’t have and what we are not, and instead focus on what God has provided us and who He has intended us to be.
The world has seven billion inhabitants. If every person did one good thing, every single day, without thought of reward, we could change the world. We will change the world! My faith is strongly placed in our future, and that future sits in front of me each and every day in my classroom!
Jonathan Nagy, M.Ed., is the Director of Admissions and Social Studies teacher at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Ebensburg and the Music Director at the Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel in Loretto.