When we are young, there are people in our lives that guide us towards the person we will become. They are our role models, and we often look to them for direction, encouragement, and the right and good way to live. For many of us, myself included, it is our parents who fill this role. As a child, my parents seemed like super heroes. They could do no wrong in my eyes and, as I grew older, I tried to live my life through their example. They continue to be hardworking, caring individuals and continue to teach my siblings and I what is important in life. Through their actions, I learned how to treat others equally and with respect, to help those in need, and to always try to find the good in others. I have learned what it means to live my life for others because of their example, and I will always be grateful for that lesson.
Growing up, I didn’t have the words to properly describe how my parents lead me towards the mindset that I have today. This past year, however, that all changed when I moved to Denver and took a job as a teacher at a private, Jesuit high school. This school is not only focused on providing students a rigorous college preparatory curriculum, it also encourages the full development of each student by guiding them academically, spiritually, and teaching them the real world application of their lessons. They are encouraged to participate in various service projects that help serve the communities of Denver. The motto of this and all Jesuit institutions is “Men and Women for Others”, and the students begin to understand the meaning behind this phrase through their four years at the school. They transform into intelligent, self-aware young adults that actually want to participate in community service opportunities offered through our school. They want to give back to their own communities; they want to be the best version of themselves in order to help their neighbor. They wouldn’t have been able to do this, however, without the guidance and support of those around them, including their teachers, families, and especially the Jesuit priests that work at the school. They’ve learned through example to truly embody this motto by making it a part of their lives.
Working at this school has finally given me the language with which to define what my parents did for me when I was young, and it has made me want to lead through example as well for my students. Being a man or woman for others can be taught in many different ways, but it must be a mindset and a lifestyle. This means participating in the big things, like serving at the food bank, signing up for a service project, or planning a charitable event, but it also means to give back every day in different, smaller ways. If we are more mindful and purposeful in our daily actions, as well as those larger opportunities for change, then we will be making a difference every day. Every act can be a charitable one if we live our lives for one another. Being kind to a stranger, giving your child or spouse encouragement about something they are working on, or holding the door open for someone – these may seem like insignificant acts, but in reality these are the acts that keep us grounded. These are the acts that make the larger charitable acts seem not only more accessible but worth it.
Teaching this mindset through example is something we do everyday, even if we don’t realize it. I am not a parent, but as a teacher, I have to always remember that my students look to me for guidance and emulate my behaviors and actions. Likewise, I tried to imitate my parents’ charitable way of thinking by trying to do the same with my own life, taking their (sometimes unintentional) lessons to heart. And the same can be said for all parents. Think about it – if your kids observe you donating clothes or food, they understand that this is the right thing to do. Similarly, if you have a mindset that charity is a lifestyle, they grow up with that mindset as well. By teaching through example, you can show your children what being a man or woman for others truly means. After all, it’s our everyday subtle actions that they seem to pick up on the most, why not make sure they are rooted in positive and thoughtful intention?
Written By Megan Turilli
Megan currently lives in Denver with her boyfriend and her cat, teaching, practicing yoga, and drinking homemade beer!