To those who spoke at the MHS Unity week voices panel, thank you. Your words, your stories, the images you gave us, were incredibly potent and full of emotion. Thank you for trusting in your peers and thank you for giving us insight in to the most vulnerable part of yourself and your story.
For those of you who don’t know what is going on, this week at my high school was Unity Week, a week full of compassion, love, understanding and unity. On Wednesday, we had a speaker who was born in Palestine. She talked about how different our lives were from hers and how we can help improve our selfs and our community. Thursday, today, was the voices panel. A group of six students and teachers talked about something that affected them significantly. Some stories were told about losing loved ones, cancer, depression, body image, suicide, all very deep subjects. The mission for this week was to prove that, “You mater” and how how we care as a high school community.
2016 was the first year McMinnville High School had ever done a voices panel for unity week and it turned out very well. There was a lot of positive feedback from students and staff about how much of a difference it made in their lives. This year, the whole event was organized much better and was pulled off without any problems. Both years, the speakers began behind a curtain to give them privacy then after they were done speaking, they came out on stage. The students and teachers all had very emotional and close stories that they shared with their respective classes in the auditorium. It is worth noting the the sophomore class is 500+ strong.
It was amazing watching the reactions on the faces of the audience as they listened to the stories. Within the first two minutes, 50% of us had teared up (not an exaggeration) and the room was almost completely silent. Even people who normally don’t care, stopped and listened. It was a powerful moment. They had us use a modified sign language sign for clapping to show our respect and show that we were listening. That meant that when each person was done speaking, the room was silent.
Every single person has an amazing story, one that deserves to be shared. I know many veterans who, when you take the time to sit down and listen, all have amazing and beautiful stories to tell. It is not just veterans though, as today proved. Any person, including the ones that you are close with, all have a story that no one has heard. They just have to trust you enough to tell you.
Change someone’s life with unity
If a majority of Americans took the time to listen to the stories of two or three others, the compassion and care alone would be enough to convince the country to work together to bring the change needed. No mater how small an act may seem, no mater how short a story may be, they deserve to see the light. I challenge you to go out, go out and ask, ask for someones story. Maybe you have to convince them that they can trust you, maybe it could take a while. But what matters is that you listened.
At the end of the panel, the advisor said that we could give them a real round of applause. The applause that followed was impressive. It was the fastest I have ever seen a group of people give a standing ovation. The whole sophomore class moved as one collective body, all standing at once. We also had the option to go up and talk to the people that spoke at the end. For every person, there was a long line of people waiting to hug them. I personally was in the classes of some and had mutual friends so I felt obligated to thank them(I would have anyway, they did a great job).
If we just keep some of what happened today in our minds, we can do great things. Stories, respect, love, trust and honesty are all what make humans unique. Make an impact and understand that the world will take notice. Do the impossible, dream big dreams and be like no other.