Head of School Blog

One Student’s Response to Hurricane Sandy

Jill Singleton
Despite the damage and heartache created by Hurricane Sandy, everywhere I go people are talking about the many moving things they’ve experienced and witnessed: neighbors helping one another by providing food and shelter, hundreds of young people volunteering with citywide relief efforts, and people understanding first hand the hardships of homelessness. These are just some examples of the humanity created by the storm, perhaps as the universe’s way to offset the devastation and destruction.

While I experienced many of these moments myself during a week that will forever feel like time spent in the Twilight Zone, one story that particularly touched me involves one of our very own Sixth Graders, Lucy Walkowiak. Lucy was one of the first people to think about ways in which she, as a member of one of the households with power, could help those without any. Putting a table and chairs in her gate and stringing a number of extension cords, Lucy created her “Pop Up Internet Café” as a way of helping people in the neighborhood who were in need of a charge for their Smartphones, computers and other mobile devices. These pieces of equipment took on extra importance during the storm in that they represented the only ways in which people might connect with family and loved ones around the world. Lucy also served coffee and snacks to her guests, who also benefitted from her family’s wifi access boosted for the occasion, and put out a tip jar to collect funds for the American Red Cross.

Lucy’s act of kindness was not surprising to me. A dedicated member of our Service Club, it makes total sense to me that Lucy would think of such a creative way to help others with the resources available to her. What did surprise me, however, was how Lucy’s compassion was seen and felt – literally – around the world. In addition to being on Good Morning America, World Headline News, and Anderson Cooper on CNN, Lucy’s story reached the central coast of Australia, where a couple heard of her story and took the time to write Lucy’s parents:

Dear Mr. Walkowiak,

I live in Sydney, Australia. I have been watching the terrible footage and events unfold in your part of the world, and have been saddened by the loss and pain so many people are feeling. Your heartwarming story has reached Australia, and I just wanted to say how wonderful you and your daughter are for the amazing, inspirational and yet simple gesture you are providing your community.

Your gesture does not just touch your own community, but that of the world, and serves as a reminder how such a simple offering can unite people in difficult times. Your daughter is a truly remarkable young lady, who I am sure will continue her journey in a very successful manner. I wanted to personally thank you both for providing a reminder that good can triumph adversity. I have donated to the Red Cross here in Australia as a way of honouring your efforts and to say thank you.

I wish you both the very best in life.

Kindest Regards,
Melinda Mckiernan
Central Coast, NSW Australia

On Sunday my husband’s family was finally able to get in touch with us after the outage. It was so heartwarming and special to hear that my brother-in-law from Cohasset, Massachusetts, saw Lucy as well! I was so proud to know that one of my students was reaching so many people as a result of technology – an irony given that so many of us were without any way to see her right here in her home town!

I’ve heard it said by many this week that it would be nice if the good parts of Hurricane Sandy could stay with us, if the humanity it created might become part of the fabric of our lives. My answer to them is that it will, because Lucy and her classmates understand the importance of serving others just because it’s the right thing to do. Lucy’s act of service was as natural to her as breathing or playing – the values instilled in her by her family and her school community have nurtured in her an inborn sense of knowing that we are all called – in many ways and at different times – to do whatever we can to build a better world.

Please enjoy these stories and news clips about Lucy’s gift to the community.

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Questions? Comments? Ideas? I’d love to hear them. Email me: jsingleton@allsaintshoboken.com
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