Joyful giggles and the pitter-patter of tiny feet echoed throughout gymnasium as I wearily jogged away from the horde of relentless toddlers pursuing me. “Come back here!” they cried, “We’re going to get you!” I swerved and dodged, my legs just out of reach of their grasp. Exhausted, however, I slowed down, and it was not long before I was captured. “You’re going to jail, buddy!” I was informed.
On January 16th, the entire Lawrenceville community came together to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy through volunteer work on community service projects at organizations throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania. For more than a decade, the School has held the MLK Day of Service to uphold its commitment to teaching students to be more active participants in their communities, leaving positive, lasting influences and learning compassion and empathy along the way.
While some choose to be with their Houses or clubs, for the past three years, I have had the pleasure of going to the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) Preschool in Trenton, N.J. with the boys’ and girls’ squash teams on MLK Day. Each year, we spend a couple hours getting to know and having fun with kids ranging from three to five years old.
Being able to leave the Lawrenceville bubble and interact with people other than my peers and teachers was a rewarding and refreshing learning experience. At first, it was quite difficult for the kids and me to warm up to each other. When I asked for the children’s names, some quietly muttered them while others shrugged and shyly looked away when I tried getting to know a little more about them. However, it was soon time for the kids’ play time in the gym. Immediately, they began a game of tag, and I decided to join them in the fun. They thoroughly enjoyed chasing me around the room, capturing me, and sending me to jail—the bleachers on the sidelines of the gym—from which I escaped every time. The kids soon became comfortable interacting with me, asking me to help them build a block castle, complete a puzzle, or play dress-up. By the end of my time at CYO, I had learned every child’s name.
My gratifying experience with the preschoolers at CYO that day confirmed to me that the purpose of MLK Day was not simply to perform great displays of generosity. Community service teaches us all to be educated citizens that contribute to our society in a positive way. All it takes is a little patience, empathy, and a few small acts of kindness to make someone’s day just a little better.