As I watch my senior friends finish out their last organization meetings, I’ve been thinking a lot about what they’ve brought to the organizations and activities they were involved in. For Springfield today, all of the graduating seniors gave a speech about their time in Springfield and some takeaway messages they wanted to leave for the underclassmen in the room. Before that though, I talked about this year’s senior class as a whole: the changes they had been a part of and the things they have brought to the organization.
It’s easy to talk about the money. I can tell you how much money Springfield raised during each of the past four years, and our fundraising total summed over the past four years. And I can tell you that we adopted two families in the past four years and they were supportive in both of those pairings. I can tell you how many people have joined our listserv and how many events we have had in the past four years and all the things Springfield has done over the past four years that this class has seen. That’s pretty easy; it’s just checking records and counting and relaying information. And that’s a bit part of what I did when I started off today. $896,000 and two families is a very impressive and quantifiable contribution to an organization. The thing is, this group of people doesn’t have ownership over any of those numbers. Every year, it’s a group effort and they just happen to have been some of the members of the past four groups. You can’t really quantify a subgroup’s involvement when you can’t separate the subgroup from the whole.
So okay, fine. Let’s look at this a different way. I’ll think about the individuals in this class and what each of them has contributed. Most of them have had some sort of leadership position, so that’s a start—but are their contributions because of who they are as a person and the work they put in, or would we have been just as successful with a different person in that position? It’s hard to say. So we’ll get even more personal: what did they change about their position or add to it? What changes did they make to Springfield through their position and influence? Thinking about it that way did help me a lot, but I’m still looking at individual people and not this class. There will be other opportunities later in the week to talk about these influential individuals; now is not the time. Now is about the seniors as a whole.
Let’s take it a step further. What changes has Springfield gone through in the past four years? How old were these people at the time? What kind of influence did they have in Springfield at the time? They were juniors during a very transitionary year and supported those transitions—that’s something important to note. This is helping. I’m getting somewhere and I think I’m starting to sum up these seniors.
But the thing that means the most to me about them is the thing that’s the most personal and least quantifiable. Members of this senior class are the people who had the biggest influence in helping me to feel welcome in Springfield to stick around. Without them to chat with at events, to welcome me to sit with them at meetings, to invite me to do things with them, to encourage me to get more involved, and to generally make me feel recognized and seen—I don’t know if I would have stuck around after my freshman year. It’s only recently that I’ve started to become close with members of my own class and the class below me. Up until a few months ago, I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t have more than 3 friends in Springfield once the current seniors graduate. So I know that they have contributed so much—but I can’t quantify that, and that story is so specific to me and the people who became my friends. There is no easy way to quantify or fully recognize somebody else’s contributions. So much of what we bring to the table is about our personality and intangible, personal traits—the way you behave around others, your sense of creativity, your core values, your leadership and friendship style. As much as I want to say that we will miss this about the senior class, I just can’t. Their involvement has been so varied in our organization in the past four years, and that is something to be acknowledged and celebrated. Each person, no matter their positions or lack thereof contributed something valuable as a person, even if I can’t separate it out in my statistics. Their involvement has been so varied in our organization in the past four years, and that is something to be acknowledged and celebrated. Each person, no matter their positions or lack thereof contributed something valuable as a person, even if I can’t separate it out in my statistics. You can’t quantity involvement and contributions based on all possible values. You just have to feel that it exists and know that it is meaningful and important, whatever it is.