Preparing Boys for Life
Give and Take
Jay Greytok '83, Head of Middle School

Head of Middle School Jay Greytok '83 reflects on one of his favorite speeches to give to middle school boys, called "Give and Take."

We are a very lucky community. This past weekend, we came together for EA Day and cheered as our teams displayed athleticism and sportsmanship. This one event is similar in many ways to what we witness time and time again in our school. More days are filled with smiles than frowns, cheers than jeers, and happy young men who appreciate the school, their peers, and the faculty. However, there are times where we can lose focus, forget the mission and vision of our school, and take things for granted.

Occasionally, boys make mistakes that require time away from their daily routines. During this time of reflection (detention), one or more conversations occur regarding a student's choices and whether his decision was appropriate. If our young man struggles owning this mistake in judgement, or finds it difficult to see the error in his ways, we sometimes ask him if his actions required him to take something from someone, whether metaphorical or actual, or if he gave something back. Almost always, this question leads to further discussion.

The action of taking a physical object is easy for our boys to understand. Whether to beg, borrow, or steal, they know if it is not theirs, it is not theirs, and therefore should be left alone, returned to the rightful owner, or placed in lost and found. What is harder for our guys to comprehend is that being mean or selfish is also an action that requires taking someone's self-confidence or gratitude away from them. The action of taking is far more than the removal of something you can hold, but the thoughtful and thoughtless feat of putting yourself ahead of others.

Giving is the complete opposite. At this time of year, we often think of the act of giving and the feeling of joy we see in others to whom we give gifts, both tangible and intangible. Helping a friend is an act of giving, as is doing chores, being nice, and sharing a warm hug. Students who give more than they take usually have high self-esteem and generally feel good abut themselves and their actions. They tend to smile more often and find joy in the world around them. It is a wonderful moment as a parent when you see your child give selflessly, without any significant reward other than the pleasure of making someone else happy.

Thanksgiving is a few days away and we hope you have much to be thankful for this year. Hopefully as you gather with family and friends, you will see your son in the act of giving. We will continue to do our best to remind him of what it means to be a young man of character.

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