Editorial: let’s do more than thank our crossing guards

After ASM during the first week of school, students poured out of the Salkind Center gym and down the passageway along St. Agnes. Although the crowds crossing Page Street chattered boisterously, many of them forgot to do something crucial to building a respectful school community: they did not thank Javier, one of our crossing guards.

Crossing guards, Flik employees, and people who work on facilities all provide invaluable yet often unacknowledged services to our school and make sure that everyday operations run smoothly. Deeper than their job titles, they are also interesting, wise, funny people who can share their knowledge with the community.

As a school and as an institution, we must work together to ensure that gratitude and human connection remain integral elements of our culture.

According to the Greater Good Science Center, which studies the psychological roots of happiness, altruism, and compassion, gratitude “unshackles us from toxic emotions” and has lasting positive effects on the brain. By thanking people around us, even just for small things, we begin to reshape our perspectives, seeing the world not in terms of little acts of aggression but rather in terms of little acts of joy.

Urban, it’s time to express our gratitude for all the little things that are done for us—say thank you as you cross Page Street, as you buy a sandwich, and as you see people cleaning up the chairs after a lunchtime forum.

However, it is important to remember that we should not practice gratitude just for ourselves. Gratitude’s ultimate purpose is not to make us feel like good people for remembering to say thank you, but to foster and build community. In order to get to this deeper level of gratitude, it is crucial to know the people who we are thanking. And, simply enough, knowing someone starts by learning their name.

Names hold remarkable power, a power that we can harness to build connections in our community. Think about how you feel when someone, particularly someone who does not know you very well, uses your name when addressing you. It instantly creates a feeling of respect and validation.

Chef David Labao, the head Flik Chef, does an incredible job modeling the power of names—every day as students and faculty alike walk past the kitchen in the Salkind Center, David greets people by their names. Explaining the basis for his behavior, he told the Urban Legend that “If I hydrate you, caffeinate you, and nourish you, it’s good to have a personal connection.” The opposite is also true: if people make our lunch, keep us safe as we cross the street, and work tirelessly in countless other ways to keep Urban running, then it is not just good, but imperative, to know their names and build a personal connection.

Once we learn names, we can begin to get to know the people who help make our school a community. While Page Street and the Student Center are not ideal venues for long conversations, there are still opportunities for small moments of connection. If you engage in a real conversation, you might discover that Dave, the Facilities Director, likes woodworking and motorcycles, and that Angel Jimenez, who works on facilities, is going on a trip to Vancouver this November.

All of this is not to say we are failing at connection now. On the contrary, many students already model gratitude and understanding. Standing in line in the student center a few weeks ago, students asked Kevin Fonseca, who works at Flik, how his weekend had been and complimented him on his new haircut.

He told the Urban Legend that “I don’t care about the topic, I just like it when people talk to me.”

Angel, however, said that “only a few people know me here. They know me because they ask me questions.”

Let us all follow the model of those who ask questions and who strive to make connections. To facilitate this process of understanding, the Urban Legend will be publishing profiles of Flik employees, the facilities team, the people at the front desk, and countless other members of the Urban staff who often go unrecognized on our website at urbanlegendnews.org. These profiles are designed to inspire conversations—simply reading them is not enough.

In the meantime, say thank you, and then go beyond saying thank you: learn the names of those whose service to Urban goes unrecognized, and then actually get to know the people making our food, keeping us safe, and ensuring that the school runs smoothly.

Our core values call us to build a community of “mutual respect between students and teachers.” At the Urban Legend, we believe that this respect should extend beyond student-teacher relationships and inform the way that we interact with everyone on campus.

These steps towards gratitude and recognition, while small, will foster new individual connections and relationships that build the community of mutual respect our core values aim to create.