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Lessons learned: Sharing one’s skills to help others | In Our Opinion | June 12
Street musicians aren’t uncommon these days, but it’s doubtful any of them have ever collected $380 for playing a violin for nearly two hours in front of a grocery store.
It’s different, however, when the musician is a 12-year-old prodigy who is playing for a cause – other than his own. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s positioned in front of Town & Country market on Bainbridge Island.
On Memorial Day, Morgan Leader, a sixth-grade student at Sakai Intermediate School, opened his violin case and placed a sign near it that said he would appreciate donations for Helpline House in exchange for his music. He chose fiddle tunes as his genre, and needless to say, considering the generosity of those passing by, he performed well.
Morgan chose this approach as the “action” part of the “Make a Difference Project” his teacher Shelley Minor has offered this year to students in two of her social studies classes. Teacher Kris Hotchkiss, who initiated a similar project last year with Celine O’Leary, also participated this year. In all, about 100 students researched and then wrote a paper about a specific, important social issue.
The fun part came when they identified a local element of that cause or issue, then undertook a hands-on action that benefited it. The breadth of the projects and the students’ enthusiasm has been remarkable, Hotchkiss said.
Just to mention a few fund-raising endeavors, donations were given for: the cure of cancer; causes ranging from saving tigers to providing school supplies; Doctors Without Borders; the Red Cross; UNICEF; and many other national and international nonprofit organizations.
Locally, the kids volunteered at The Furrytale Farm, an animal rescue nonprofit on Bainbridge; spent many hours removing Scotch broom and other invasive plants; collected dental supplies for homeless kids; monitored a salmon stream; and collected money for needy causes in many ways, including collecting stray golf balls and selling them for $1 to members, baking cookies and other goodies, and even playing a violin where people congregate.
Lee Leader, Morgan’s dad, said it was his son’s idea to play for donations. Their first thought was to play on the ferry, but that isn’t allowed now so he switched to T&C. Lee said Morgan’s musical aptitude appears innate and that when he has asked him to share it with him, the boy shrugs and says, “I just do it.”
But Morgan is happy to share the fruit of his talent for a cause, especially one as noble as helping people whom, for one reason or another, need a hand up.
“He’s very gifted,” Hotchkiss said, “and that’s a great way for him to use his skills.”
Mankind’s beneficence toward each other has been circulating forever, of course, but the teachers said today’s kids seem to embrace it in a special way if guided toward it.
“I think kids today have a higher awareness of the world’s needs than when I was a kid,” Hotchkiss said. No doubt. And when given a gentle push, many seem to understand the priceless value of giving.
It’s one of those life principles that is best embraced at an early age because once learned it seems never forgotten.
Bainbridge certainly doesn’t have the market on altruism, but it’s a healthy sign when a community’s youth have embraced it.