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Message to Edgerton grads: 'Little things make a difference'

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Neil Johnson
June 3, 2013

— Superintendent Dennis Pauli had a humble message for 133 graduates Sunday at Edgerton High School.

He didn’t hammer the students, clad in red gowns and caps, with the usual graduation speech clichés about changing the world in a mighty fell swoop or achieving greatness through dedication, work ethic and tenacity.

He gave the graduates a simple thought. His message: Kindness, consideration and duty through small actions are what matter most.

“In life, it’s the little things that make a difference,” Pauli said. “None of us will be remembered for the things that we have, but all of us will be remembered for the things we have done.”

Pauli’s sentiments Sunday were rooted in his recent experience with a group of 14 Edgerton volunteers who a week ago traveled to the devastated Oklahoma towns of Moore and Shawnee, where several EF5 tornadoes tore through last month.

As he recounted the trip to Oklahoma, Pauli talked about how small acts of generosity and kindness benefited the volunteers as much as they did the residents of the two Oklahoma towns.

On the way to Moore, just out side of Rockford, a tire blew out on one of four trailers that the volunteers had loaded with goods to help out those affected by the tornado. It was Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Still, a tow operator hustled out to meet the volunteers.

The worker not only repaired the problem on the spot; he also put four new tires on the trailer so the group could avoid more problems on the way.

The worker refused to charge a tire-installation fee, Pauli said, instead telling the volunteers to keep their money so they could use it to help people once they got to Oklahoma.

A little thing, but that generosity meant that volunteers had enough money left over to pay a veterinarian’s bill for a Moore woman whose dogs were seriously hurt in the tornadoes, Pauli said. The woman could not afford to pay the vet bill herself, and she could not get her dogs until she paid.

Pauli said her appreciation was “heartfelt.”

The damage in both Moore and Shawnee was so widespread and overwhelming that Pauli said the volunteers knew immediately that all of their efforts would make only a tiny dent.

He said the volunteers focused on doing what they could to help people; as it turned out, it was a lot of little things.

For instance, volunteers saw an elderly man and woman struggling in the wind, trying to secure a blue tarp to cover their blown-off roof. A few of the volunteers hopped up on the roof and helped the people get the job done.

“It was a small thing for the residents, but it made a difference,” Pauli said.

Pauli told the students a parable about a boy who was scouring a beach for starfish left on the sand by a receding tide. The boy was throwing the fish back into the sea so that they wouldn’t die.

In the parable, a man approached the boy and scoffed at his efforts. He told the boy that there were miles and miles of beach and untold scores of beached starfish the boy could never hope to reach. How could the boy hope to make a difference? the man asked.

The boy just tossed another starfish back into the sea and turned to the man.

His answer: “It made a difference for that one,” Pauli said.

Students seemed primed Sunday to carry out Pauli’s message in their own lives. Before the graduation ceremony—even before Pauli’s words had a chance to reverberate off the walls of the high school field house and soak into the graduates’ brains, students showed each other kindness and consideration in little ways.

One girl in the hallway straightened another’s mortarboard tassel. Another put an arm around her friend’s shoulder and asked her if she thought she would cry during the ceremony.

A male student beamed ear to ear after a female classmate complimented him on his necktie.

Little things.


 
 
 
 

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