was no wonder she watched everyone sus- piciously between chunks of blond hair. So, one Friday after a long day of tug-of-war, I decided to tell Sloan a story. That afternoon, she had planted herself in the middle of the mini-golf course and begun to fiddle with the fake grass. She wasn’t staring at me with defiant eyes or crying or screaming, but she was undoubtedly throwing a tantrum. It was a “Sloan-trum,” as my supervisor had started to call them, when Sloan absolutely refused to participate with the group. I looked help- lessly from Sloan to my head counselor, who was pursuing a degree in education that qualified her far more to work at this camp than my measly bit of babysitting experi- ence. But Leslie was occupied helping other little girls swing their putters, so I sat down cross-legged next to Sloan, wincing as the fake grass scratched against my legs. “Sloan,” I said, and paused, unsure of my tac- tic. She glanced at me out of the corner of her eye, aware that I was about to begin yet another round of gentle prodding. What she didn’t know was that I was resisting the urge to beg, cry, even scream, just so Sloan would pick up her putter and hit that little red golf ball into the hole. When I couldn’t think of anything else to do, I began to tell her a story in which the pink plastic dinosaur she loved on the golf course was actually alive. Her shoulders started to relax, and she asked me in her reedy voice, “Why have I never seen it move?” “Because it only happens at night,” I told her, “and only when no one else is around. That’s why it’s so important we all go home at the end of the day––so the dino-
saur can come out and play.” Over the last half hour of the day, the baby dinosaur climbed trees, grew wings, and made its way all over the sky in a search for its mother. As the buses began to pull down the driveway, signaling the end of the camp day, the two were finally reunited, but the dinosaur’s mother insisted her child return to its place on the mini-golf course––it had made far too many friends to leave behind. By the time I had finished the story, Sloan was smiling at me–– shyly, but nevertheless smiling. When I walked her to the bus that afternoon, she squeezed my hand. Stories, fundamental to the humanities, take us out of our own lives and into someone else’s so we can understand what would other- wise never make sense. The meaning, purpose, and power of words–– taught in foreign language classes, literature, classics, music, the performing and visual arts–– allow us to tell our own stories and build our own worlds and identities. It was words and stories that allowed me to bridge the otherwise unbridgeable gap between me and Sloan, that allowed me to help Sloan understand the grief for which she had no words. Sloan is doing bet- ter now. For several summers after our time to- gether, when she moved into the older sections of the camp, I often saw her, still cleaning sand off play structures and speaking to herself in odd voices, but smiling now, sometimes beaming, as other kids brushed the sand off with her. I’d like to believe that a story about a dinosaur helped, even if just a little.
Adam Braun FOUNDER, PENCILS OF PROMISE
If you could have anything in the world, what would you want the most?
That’s the question Millennial Adam Braun posed to every child he encountered on his term abroad in college. The answer of one little kid: a pencil, changed his life. The lesson: go abroad, and listen.
The wish of an education, became the beginning of Adam’s new career. He left his high-paying and high-profile job in finance and built a company called Pencils of Promise to build schools and train teachers in the developing world. Their model is to work closely with local community leaders to make sure the schools are sustainable. His grassroots efforts and contributions of $100.- or less from friends in their teens and 20s, led to his first 10 schools. And now they have built over 100 schools. In the process, he has renamed non-profits “for purpose” organizations and deeply believes that you can create a remarkable life through “purposeful profit.”
One of my favorite books! Adam Braun's The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change
309 Don’t Leave College Without Them
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