Positivity and Greatness, Keys to Inspiring Your Community

April 8, 2011 § 12 Comments

Teeming with new experiences, new friends, and new dreams, my past two weekends consisted of an official visit to Georgetown University for track and a weekend spent with my student council friends at LEAD (a national leadership conference for teens.) 4 weeks ago, I would not expect to experience flying rubber chickens, a distance run with my potential future teammates, and the joy of teaching a workshop; three experiences I would never trade for the world. But as I reflect upon my recent ventures, I wonder what made them so great in hindsight when compared to a friend’s depressing recent venture into his school’s GSA for the first time – a club made to benefit him! Why do I smile at the thought of attending school in DC, or burst out laughing when remembering a leadership conference while my friend cringes at the thought of a GSA? What it comes down to is community, especially what type of community you want to be.

While visiting Georgetown I met with two coaches and probably over half of the boys track team after driving onto the campus with a current Freshman runner. We breezed through Georgetown, skating the typical picturesque locations till we reached the athletic quarters – a gym which fulfills it’s intended purpose but is not as aesthetically alluring as the main educational center whose stone walls and wooden doors reign politefully the whole of Georgetown. But surrounding my entrance into Georgetown was an air of potential excellence which I thrive off of. I felt as if I could be great academically and athletically at Georgetown, though I did not necessarily feel at home. Which is one piece of community every GSA needs and an understanding that every attendee should internalize.

A GSA should be a place where greatness can blossom, whether it’s in activism or friendship, understanding or safety. If a GSA is not enabling greatness for it’s members than there is no point in having it. As simply as a GSA may seem, it can be the first step in completely turning someone’s life around and should be viewed as such. We should be communities which embody this potential and lend it to others for it is essential to our future!

Nevertheless, when first attending a GSA – we shouldn’t expect for it to feel right immediately. We may not have a warm and fuzzy feeling, an internal calm which shines through with smiles on our faces – I didn’t with Georgetown and I didn’t when I entered my first GSA sponsored activity, but both of these situations weren’t “bad” nor were they wrong for me. They merely were not romanticized versions of the truth, which is what I imagine my friend was expecting, and that is okay.

One weekend later, I entered the grand room of a hotel in Stamford Connecticut where I was immediately embraced in the warmest of hugs and shouted at energetically from across the hall. Please note, this is not a romanticized retelling but indeed the truth! Student Council conferences are known to be filled with energy and an openness which is unparalleled! A few hours later rubber chickens were flung into the air above over a thousand sitting student leaders, and nearly hit one of my friends who was subsequently chosen to participate in an event taking place on stage with our world renowned guest speaker. The crowed cheered for him immediately though they knew very little of him and supported him till the end with positive chants and claps.

It is this positive energy which we should embody! Whether or not we know someone’s back story, when they show up into our GSA we should welcome them joyfully and support them fervently. When they participate and represent us in any activity, be it a sport, a play, or an academic team – they deserve our support! This needn’t be a rosy, overly glorified description of a GSA but the defining columns which support a GSA as a beacon of hope!

As much as I hate to say it, in my high school exists animosity between various gay guys for no point whatsoever. You would imagine we would bond together with the understanding of what each of us has faced, and some of us do, always reaching out our hands to help those who may go by unnoticed and ridiculed. Others resent stereotypical gay guys while some exemplify the negative stereotypes of cattiness and perversion. What we need is to put aside our differences and support the people who need our help and cheer them on when they’re attempting to accomplish something great, for if we don’t – we the people who may best understand what they’re going through, who will?

I can only imagine that if my friend’s GSA had enabled greatness and energetically supported it’s newest, most unknown members, that anyone who attended would return time and time again.

Each of us has the potential to inspire our community to act differently, to spur on greatness like Georgetown or to grow positivity endlessly like a student council conference. Through our actions we impress upon our peers an image of what we find acceptable, what we hope they should do, therefor we should strive to be the change we wish to see! A wise man once said, when you dare to be great – you allow others around you to do the same.

I dare my community to be great and positive. What do you dare yours to be?

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§ 12 Responses to Positivity and Greatness, Keys to Inspiring Your Community

  • David Lai says:

    Awesome! Glad to read such optimism and that you enjoyed Georgetown.

    • Craig says:

      Thanks David, next time I run into you at a pet store I’ll be sure to fill you in on all of the details of my weekend at Georgetown and you can tell me all about upenn!

  • Jacob Woods says:

    It is such a good question. The bind I have is I love writing and I am not a naturally extroverted person. Being the president of my GSA is something I never would have guessed myself to be! It causes me a lot of stress. Though I handle it well and have the patience of a saint and inspire many members to join and to participate in our group, I don’t know if the end result is worth the complaining I do outside of the group.

    I feel hypocritical. It is a great community of members we have here on campus. It has grown significantly and has only been around for under a decade. It is a really fresh and growing community. Still small compared to some aspects but fun, creative, and inspirational nonetheless.

    The question is if I am good at being the president and enjoy only certain aspects of the position and build good community through moving interactions through others, should I continue to be the president next year if I am not fully enjoying myself? Or maybe it is just the fact that this is my first year and am still learning?

    Any advice Craig? I could surely use it!!!

    • Craig says:

      If you’re not enjoying it and there is someone else to step up to fill your shoes, I say why not take a step back next year? You can still be involved while not having the expectation to run everything but it is curious that you are president of your GSA as a not-typically extroverted person.

      The one thing that does worry me is that you complain about GSA outside of GSA, as many of my friends who are gay choose not to go to GSA because of it’s negative connotations – and that’s without the GSA’s president dissing it in front of them.

      What I would do is to take a step back and write down your personal goals, your goals for the GSA, and the steps you will take to accomplish both. Do they intertwine at all? Perhaps they run parallel and only deviate from each other at a few places? Then keep on going and simply rework your perspective on the situation! If your two path’s seem to conflict more than to merge, than I would step back and choose which one you care more about – which often times are your own goals.

      How is your GSA climate at college anyways? I have yet to attend any college GSA events (as I’m not in college yet) but am curious to hear if they have evolved beyond their High School counterparts.

      • Jacob Woods says:

        I was never involved in a GSA in high school. But I can give insight into what we have done.

        Bake Sales – I know sounds sort of high school like. It is. But it works, sometimes, and it is an easy way to raise money and be open to the community!

        ONWAH – As you may have read on Good as Gay there is an astonishing amount of homelessness with lgbt community members. ONWAH stands for One Night Without A Home. GSA raised $300 dollars this year to help alleviate homelessness and two members slept outside in a tent in 7 degree weather. The tent was colder than the cardboard boxes! I swear. But regardless homelessness in Minnesota is much worse than one night without a home!

        MOCC – Minnesota Out Conference is a annual event that unites lgbt college students for an event. This last event more than 500 people attended to network, attend workshops on lgbt related topics, and communicate our stories with one another. It was the largest attended event thus far!!! I can’t wait to go next year!

        Lemon Meringue Pie – We invited a group from Brainerd to perform a play that focused on disabilities and lgbt issues. It was humorous and well attended for a rural community event with little time for planning and preparation. Very funny as well.

        Bullied – Next year we will be having Jamie Nabozny attending to speak about bullying. His case inspired the documentary called bullied. He was relentlessly ridiculed with no support from school faculty. He sued and won!!!

        These are just some of the highlights. (Why I love it so much!!! Thanks for your advice. But I really am considering pulling back. I am definitely uncomfortable as an extrovert!)

      • Craig says:

        ahaha, I have no clue what you were talking about in your tweet Jacob – this comment is fantastic!!

        Until your comment I had never heard of Jamie Nabozny by name (only by his story) and now I’ve been able to look up a few videos on him which I plan on sharing with our guidance counselors. I also really like your ONWAH concept, that is definitely something we can do to raise awareness and money. If anything, the experience alone will be worth it as you have said!

        For someone who seems like he tries not to be too involved, you’re doing a great job Jacob! Way to go

  • tristram says:

    Craig – thanks for another thoughtful post. You’ve identified a situation that puzzles and distresses me every time I witness (or experience) it – which is all too frequently. I have heard (and formulated in my mind) a lot of ideas about why it happens, but I totally agree with you as to what the solution is. Keep up the good work!

    • Craig says:

      Thank you Tristram! It’s a situation which distresses me too but there are many ways of working to resolve it. I’m looking forward to writing more about this and how students can help improve their GSA’s. If you have any ideas, I would love to hear them and quote you in an upcoming post!

  • Kyle says:

    Great post, and congrats on George Town — one of my friends is most likely going there as well. Let me know where you end up!

    • Craig says:

      Thanks Kyle! I’ll send you a message as soon as I commit and if your friend does decide to go there, I’ll be sure to message him! I hope your college situation is working out well, expect a dm from me tonight!

  • Mike Sarzo says:

    Awesome insight, Craig! Though I’ve heard Georgetown can be rather conservative on LGBT issues, it is a school with a terrific reputation.

    • Craig says:

      Thanks Mike! I’ve heard the same thing with Georgetown, but they recently added an lgbt center onto their campus which shows improvement. Since Georgetown is located in/by DC, a rather gay friendly city, I’m not as worried as I may have been had I attended a rather conservative university in the middle of no where. What opposition I face, I look forward to growing from in my 4 years of college and hopefully I can bring those lessons back to this blog.

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