In the recent movie, adapted from the book by the same name,  The Boys in the Boat, which depicts the rowing team from the University of Washington that, a group of nine individuals who came together on the Junior Varsity team, who went on the beat the varsity team, went on to win the NCAA championship and then winning the Gold Medal in the Olympics in Munich in Germany 1936, during the Great Depression and leading up to World War II.  This team was greatly

underestimated, they were young, inexperienced, but it was that they came together as a team, even with their own shortcomings, an illness, a lack of funding, they could pull it together, to become victorious and in their success, they brought along the University of Washington Community, the State of Washington and the United States.  Their team work was appealing to all who watched and read about them.  It’s like that when you see a winning sports team, a successful movie, a business, a good family, an organization or any movement that brings people together and their triumph is something you want part of. One might even say to themself, “I want what they have!” Not in a jealous way but in tone with respect for what ever it took to get there and it looks so good, I’d like to use that vision to inspire me!”  No one, no team, group, family, company or organization does it on their own. Any success anywhere, was the result of individuals working together, with different skills, different strengths, different roles, all checking their egos at the door and working together to achieve the goal set out to hit.

     Consider the first “Team” you were part of. It was a family.  There were parents, maybe grandparents close to your intimate family circle, maybe brothers and sisters, maybe aunts and uncles.  This first unit you were part is the first, oldest and most important faction of society. Here is where you were cared for when you could not care for yourself, you were fed, changed, cuddled and taught the first lessons in life. Psychologists say that these first three years of a human’s life are the most crucial in their development.  Just think of that first year, a helpless infant who cannot move on their own, grows into a little person who can walk, or be well on their way, being to communicate and speak, grow teeth and go from feeding from a bottle to eating with a little spoon or fork. In the second and third of those first years, they continue to learn to communicate, learning new words, learn to get what they want and learn to get along in the world all within the safety of that family unit.  By the end of those first three years, they are learning or learn to use the potty, start to learn manners like please and thank-you, to share and get along in a little group as they go on to their first social experience in preschool where they learn to stand in line, get along with peers, learn the routine of an institution and begin the new skill of developing friendships.

boy in red crew neck t-shirt sitting beside boy in blue crew neck t-shirt
When children head off to preschool or kindergarten, they begin their journey out in the real world, a little at a time. Safety in numbers is a good thing to keep in mind as they venture out. Photo by CDC / Unsplash

     Your parents solidified  bond with you from early on.  As you graduate now, you may not fully understand just how much your parents love you.  It may be hard for them to see you as a grown up eighteen year old now because their first memories of you are as a little baby and they have been with you from them.  Your parents get so much credit for getting you here.  It is hard for you to understand the depth of their love for you and you may not fully until you have your own children. Thank them often for all they have done for you and remember always how much they love you.  

     From pre-school, it is elementary school, maybe sports teams, other activities, spiritual organizations, getting along in the neighborhood, maybe a first job with coworkers, middle school, high school clubs, the cementing of friendships that become lifelong or your graduating class.  Many of these groups of people we become part of are not planned, they just happen because of circumstance or that you are in the same place at the same time, over and over and you become close to these people and they become part of your daily/weekly life.  You development relationships that become closer and closer, you care about them, hopefully they are healthy mutual relationships where their is respect for each other and when these factors are in place, good things can happen. These experiences, within the family unit, extended family, the friends, the spiritual community, the school community, sports teams, clubs etc, teach us how to get along with others, how to work together and how to make things happen. 

     The skills you learn, that you have learned up to here, upon your completion of your high school education, all prepare you for the world you are going out in to.  Being part of something more than yourself is a good thing, if your “group” is up to goodness, be it a sports victory, or anything else. You see when you are in a group, you get out of your own head and thoughts of yourself to consider others. We are all together in the game of life.  We may be at different stages, your parents, your grandparents, teachers, neighbors, myself, but we each can enrich others lives and make one another’s days better by considering others in the world.  Consider something as simple as driving. You might not know the other people driving on the road with you, but if you show respect for others on the road, by paying attention to what you are doing, respecting the traffic rules, signs and stop lights, you are helping keep those other people you don’t even know safe so that they can get home safely to their families and when they do the same, it allows for the greatest chance that THEY TOO will get home safely. Take the driving issue one step further, when your are driving others in your car, you are holding their life in your hands.  Again, respecting the traffic rules, signs, lights and paying attention, you are improving the odds that you all will get to your destination safely.  You are respecting those in your car and their families who wish for them to arrive home safety. 

     As you head out into the world you may have a roommate down the road as you take on your first job when you leave the safety of your parents home or as you head off to college. When you have a roommate, you have to think of the other person.  Sure, a single is nice, sharing can be inconvenient yet there are benefits to sharing, whether it is sharing the cost, the experience or having a buddy to go to the cafeteria or to make meals with and enjoy them. It’s nice to have a friend to pall around with.  It’s work to ‘get along.’  It means asking for someone it turn turn down the music when you are trying to study, keeping your area clean and tidy, taking out the deciding who will clean the bathroom and other tasks. This experience may prepare you for a spouse and family of your own someday. 

     When John Kennedy Junior, President John F. Kennedy’s son, proposed to his girlfriend Carolyn Bassett, they were out fishing in a boat off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard and he started the conversation leading up to the question with “everything is better with a partner in life whether it is fishing or in life.” He then asked her to be his “partner” for life. 

     Loneliness is an epidemic they say.  In this day of cell phones, texting, instant technology, we should be closer than ever as a society, yet so many seem so divided and unsettled. Be mindful of the contingents you are part of.  It has been easy for you up until now to be in touch and part of these units. You see your family everyday, your friends at school the team you are part of each season over these past few years, the friendships you established back in elementary school, middle school, high school or in the neighborhood. You will be busy as you move forward getting training, an education and making important decision to set up your adult life. Some of these people you may not see often.  You will need to make the effort to stay in touch. A text is fine, but take time for the phone calls so you can hear their voice and make an effort to keep that going and to meet up when possible. To keep a relationship going it takes time and effort. Call your parents, your grandparents. Send them photos and videos of your life (with discretion of course).  

As you move on, making new friendships and becoming part of other schools, groups friendships, search out like minded people who respect you and help bring out the best in you.  It is human nature to seek out others.  Be mindful to link yourself to people who value the things you value.  Be a light in your group and if you see someone who is alone, include them when possible. There’s Always Room for One More, like the title of the children’s Caldecott Award winning book by, Sorche Nic Leodhaus. Treat others along your way the way you want to be treated.  Be prepared to do more than your share at times and go above and beyond when necessary.  There may be times you need to be the leader and times when you best serve the group by holding another role. Be wise enough to know when.  

     Yes, there is safety in numbers.  To have family and good friends to go through the good and tough in life is gift. To have people to trust and have fun with helps make the journey a better experience. If you and those around you strive to be the best version of you, can you just imagine how great this world would be with you all inspiring one another to be kinder, smarter and better?  Think about how many great days would be ahead of you.  Congratulations!

Author, Mary Yana Burau