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Thanksgiving Assembly: Eli Hurwitz '19

November 20, 2018

During assembly on Tuesday, November 20, Eli Hurwitz '19 made the annual Thanksgiving address. Historically, Burroughs invited an outside speaker, but more than a decade ago, the school decided to look within the community for a more intimate message. Now, every year the senior class selects a classmate — the only criteria: "Who would you like to hear from?" The Class of 2019 chose Eli, whose complete remarks follow:

Good morning, everyone!

I’ve had a bit of a weird month. I’ve been feeling pretty overextended for a while, pretty overwhelmed. And kind of drained, too — like I just don’t have enough energy to tackle all the hundreds the things in my life that I should be giving my energy to. I’m not going to get into the specifics, because I think that everyone in this room knows what it’s like to have moments like these, moments where you feel exhausted, stretched thin. Moments where you struggle to keep up with your life.

I’m having one of those moments right now. I know it will pass — finals and college app deadlines will come and go, breaks will come, and I will be able to sleep in, to take things a little more slowly. But I don’t love waiting it out. I feel tired, I feel moody, I feel stress-induced breakouts. I also feel selfish.

Because I tend to think of relationships like long series of transactions, like a quid pro quo sort of thing. You make sure that the people you love in your life know that you’re there for them — you check in with them over text, you make them birthday cards, you find time to be with them. Your loved ones do the same for you. You bring time and energy to those important to you, and they reciprocate. Like a transaction — you give kindness and care, you get kindness and care in return.

Only I haven’t been able to give much kindness lately. When I’m using up all my energy to just keep up with my life, I find that I don’t have much energy to give to the people I care about. I think that I’m in a moment where this is unavoidable, but I still feel selfish. It feels bad to not be able to care for those you care about because you’re too busy trying to take care of your own life. I feel that, in some way, I’m not holding up my end of the bargain — like I’m not giving the kindness and care that I want to be giving, like I shouldn’t expect the kindness and care I normally experience in return.

Last Sunday night had me feeling all these feelings to the max. I was pretty stressed and pretty distressed. I was, to put it bluntly, freaking out a little bit — worries about art projects, and math work, and this speech, and college were spiraling into fears about not being worth anything, or not contributing enough to the world around me, or feeling this overextended for the rest of my life. You know how it is.

My mom had gotten home from a conference in Houston in the late afternoon. We had all had dinner together. I didn’t hide how overwhelmed I was feeling. I also made a lot of weird jokes about getting scurvy, because all I’d had to eat that day was bread and cheese-based food. This might have been some kind of warning sign, I don’t know. After dinner, I went back to my room, where I was holed up trying to work.

Maybe two hours later, my mom knocks on the door, and she’s balancing this stuff in her hand. She’s brought me one of those little applesauce containers (you know, like the ones that are about the same size as jello containers, the ones sold by Motts or somebody) and another applesauce, but a different kind. It was kind of like an applesauce drinkable? Like, a little squeezable applesauce pouch. If anyone has questions about how to visualize this, talk to me after this speech. Finally, she’s brought me a chocolate bar.

My mom tells me that the applesauces (and let’s dwell on that, the two types of applesauce that she brought me) are to protect me from scurvy. The chocolate was just a bonus.

Like, the things people do to care for other people, you know? The things that show you that someone’s thinking about you, trying to help you out. That’s kind of incredible.

And that wasn’t all! Because — and here’s the almost ridiculous part — in the few hours that I’d been holed up in my room, struggling to get through what felt like a mountain of work, my mom had not only had the time to find me snacks, but also to go out on a full on shopping spree. And so I went into her room and she had like, four different pairs of pants and one pair of nice shoes for me.

And that was incredible, too. I hadn’t even known that she had left. But in the middle of my night she shows up with pants! The backstory to this, also, is that I only have like two pairs of jeans that I wear right now, and that I have needed more pants for a while but have not had the time to go buy them. The second layer of backstory is that I hadn’t even thought about what I was going to wear today. But my mom had, and she knew that I had a lot on my plate, and she preemptively helped me out. Like, she knew how to help me manage a stressor before I had even realized it was something I should be stressed out about.

At this point, you might be thinking that this is just a speech about my personal stress levels and the greatness of Dr. DesPrez. Let me try to sort of, you know, get to a conclusion here.

On Sunday evening, my mom didn’t change the fact that I had a mountain of work to do. Although we’re almost to Thanksgiving break, I still feel like I’ve got to manage a hundred and one things. But what my mom did do was shake me out of my spiral-ey, stress-fueled thoughts. She gave me the time to have a trying-on-pants break, she gave me chocolate to eat as I wrote this speech. I realize this wasn’t a massive moment. But it made me feel massively cared for.

What’s really, really great about this world we live in is that I’m wrong about how relationships work. I’m wrong about love being a completely equal tally of time spent caring for the other person, I’m wrong about love being a quid pro quo. Sure, sometimes I feel stretched thin, like I’m taking more kindness and care than I can give out into the world. But even when I feel that I’m the most take-y, that I’m at my most self-absorbed, people are still willing to care.

Because I will too, when I can. Because it’s less of a quid pro quo, and more of a big, combined balancing effort. We’re all trying to give out kindness and care when we can. And no one’s keeping a tally, everyone’s just working to care and be cared for. Which is just… I don’t know. It’s so amazing. I don’t even know exactly how to express how amazing it is that we all spend our time and energy to help others out when they need it.

This is a thank you note to my mom. I will continue to try and show her the care and kindness that she shows me every day. But again, it’s not about exact balance, I don’t think, but about giving care and kindness when you can, when you are able. So I’m also going to be making a donation to Doorways, a non-profit in St. Louis that works to ensure that people with HIV/AIDS have access to safe housing. The work that this organization does is really important to me. If you have an organization whose work speaks to you, I’d encourage you to think about them now, before you head off to be with your families and loved ones. I don’t want to be too preachy, but I figure that I’ve been given this amazing chance to speak to all of you (thanks, class of 2019). This speech might have changed your life, but it was probably just kind of nice, or maybe a little bit boring. But however you feel about it, it could also do some good — because if you’re feeling like you have the resources, and have a cause that you’d like to support, this speech could remind you that that’s one way to give to the world, and that that’s pretty incredible.

Thank you for listening.