by By Joseph E. Powers, The Woods Academy, Head of School
I am just freshly showered after a cold and wet night of sleeping outside. Our 8th graders, as part of preparation for the Capstone Leadership Projects, just spent the night outside, in our courtyard, in a homelessness simulation. It was definitely cold and wet and not all made it through the night outside, but ALL took something from this experience, yours truly included.
The reflection we did this morning after the night of “roughing” it was fantastic. The students “got it.” They have a deeper understanding of what it is like for homeless men and woman. While it was just one night, and we all knew we would be back in our Sleep Number beds tonight, the thoughts shared by the students lead me to believe they will look at the homeless person with a Giant shopping cart, filled with plastic bags, cardboard and dirty blankets, a bit differently now. There was a great deal of empathy shared as we reflected and that makes me feel proud.
As I awoke this morning, after sleeping on brick pavers under a portico, with pizza boxes underneath my sleeping bag, I sat up to survey the courtyard where many slept. I was leaning up against the wall as I glanced over at the students, and then reached for my bag. I had to check and see who the New York Jets drafted last night. After gathering this all important information I noticed a zippered pocket on my bag that I had not opened in a while. I unzipped the pocket to find a receipt in it from a stay at the Four Season’s Hotel in DC from November of 1999 (look below). Two things stood out immediately. This was the receipt from the night Brit and I got engaged and the bill was $648.02 FOR ONE NIGHT! Yes it was a memorable night as our marriage soon began and yes my wife is worth every penny of it, but $648.02 FOR ONE NIGHT!
The irony is rich here. Finding this receipt on the morning of a homelessness simulation is not lost on me. It is something I will probably never forget because the memory leaves a feeling inside of me. It only hammers home the point more about how fortunate I am and our students are as well. “To whom much is given, much is expected,” is a quote I think of often and believe in wholeheartedly. The UNS are not given much. They are definitely not given living accommodations for $648.02 a night. Last night will stick with me for a while. I know I can do more to help those with less. I think our students feel the same way.