Meet one of my new Affiliate Agents-in-training. A 17-year-old young man from McKinney, Texas. Who is completely and utterly changing the world, one small act at a time. Just a reminder that the smallest acts can change lives in the biggest ways. He sent me the email below, and by the time I finished reading it, I had goosebumps on my skin and tears in my eyes. It's long, but I promise you, you will be inspired by the end.
Scratch that. You'll be inspired way before the end.
I am 17 and about to be a senior at Boyd High school in McKinney Texas and I want to tell you about the organization I have started called The Secret Drawer Society. I heard about you and the work you are doing through CNN, and I quickly copied the link and sent it in a message on facebook to the other officers in my group.
My (our) story starts back in December of 2008. A friend and I had just watched the movie the Secret the weekend previous and we were sitting in the library in my school. We have these black chairs with a small table in between them with a drawer on it. Being curious, we opened the drawer and there was nothing there, but we thought, "What if there was something there that could change the course of someone's day for the better?"
We took that idea and wrote a letter and signed it The Secret Drawer Society. In the letter, we urged people to step outside of themselves and look around at the people they were surrounded by. To try to put themselves in their shoes, to reach out and interact with them in some way, to try and make a meaningful connection, to really make people prioritize the things happening in their lives. We wrote that if this letter has inspired them, to write another letter, or draw a picture, or put anything they want into the drawer for the next person who opens it.
From that December until the end of the year, more and more letters started showing up. Some were anonymous, some were signed, and they were all positive messages for whoever happened to come along and look in the drawer. One day one of the librarians happened to find the drawer and brought the letters to our Principal. He read them, and had a mandatory faculty meeting. What I was told he said was basically: "Look at the kind of students we have here, and we didn't even know it. We go through our days teaching children that honestly we don't always like, but we had no idea how special some of them were. This is why we teach. For these kinds of kids."
The following year I made the SDS a club/organization at the school that anyone could join. (Interesting fact: The librarian who found the letters became our sponsor and gave us the backing that got us running.) I got comments from other students like; well how can it be a secret if everyone knows who is in it? I would tell them, I want us to be known by what we do, and not who we are. I saw from all the letters that we had collected (we had to empty the drawer because it got so full of letters) that there was a large number of students out there who wanted to make a positive impact in someone else's life. There is power in numbers, and so with a large group of students all working towards a common goal, positivly impacting someone's life, we really are able to make a difference!
We meet once a week during the year, and I try to come up with demonstrations for certain "lessons" and I could tell you so many stories if you would want to hear some, and I think to truly understand the SDS I would need to tell you all the stories. They carry the real punch. The feeling that I get when I hear about people who are being helped by the little things we do makes it all worth it.
I urge the members of the group to do community projects, such as a benefit concert I organized called "Project Purple". The librarian, our sponsor found out she had breast cancer this year. That and so many other events that year made me see how important and never ending the fight against cancer was, and so Project Purple was raising money for Children's Medical Center's cancer fund. The $1200 we raised that amazing night, started the construction of the Cancer and Blood Disorders Outpatient Clinic with Children's. These community projects are to make an impact outside of the school, but to teach the members that small actions can have HUGE impacts.
I teach them to live by the Henry Ford quote: "If you think you can, or that you can't, either way you're right." They go into their day’s positive, and try to teach that to others.
We have an event I call Share Your Story, which is very much like MTV's "If you really knew me," where we meet up and tell the stories of our lives that make us who we are. The point is to show that we are never alone in the problems or issues or events that we come across in our lives. Although so often we just roll through the days feeling like we are the only people who know what it's like to feel a certain way. You said "I think people are so hungry to not feel alone and not feel weird and that they don't matter," and I completely agree. They are starving for the need to feel accepted, and I think it's so important that we address that early on in STUDENTS so that they can grow up and spread that mindset.
It's is an amazing experience, and I hope that after I graduate high school and I go off to college at Mizzou, I can make the SDS into a real Nonprofit organization where we can continue to make a difference in people's lives. We started through the school, but I believe we can go much further.
I want to someday speak at Poptech or a TED conference where some of the most amazing thinkers, movers and doers of our lifetime meet to talk about their important ideas. I want to talk about the power of a positive thought and how it can affect people physically.
Your story really hit home for me, the small acts really make an impact. I would love to talk to you about how you took secret agent L and made it into such a big deal I know you said social media, but I would love to hear more.
Thank you so much for your amazing work and for hopefully taking the time to read this long message.