The Last Word - Helping Out

By George Gray | Posted: Wednesday July 26, 2017

When this school turns 200, we seniors will all be in our 60s. We may have children, possibly even grandchildren. What stories will you tell them? One of mine will be when I was in Year 10 and getting made to eat 16 cups of peas by three seniors.

We were at Mount Aspiring Camp, a standout event in my 5 years here. Unbelievable memories still sit in my mind. The friendships that were formed, the breath-taking views we witnessed, the bone-chilling rivers we dived into, the never-ending yarns we had around the campfire. It was the best week of my life, and I remember being genuinely upset when we had to leave.

When I returned home, Mum asked me how it was, and the first thing I told her about was indeed the pea-eating incident. Not because of the fact that I ate so many peas, but because the seniors had given me the attention to make me do it. To them, this was a small act with not much thought (and definitely no sense) behind it, but to me it was unforgettable. Throughout that whole week, all the other Year 10’s and I looked up to the three seniors. They were big, funny, kind, and exactly the kind of people I wanted to be when I was Year 13. And they were there just to help out.

I asked myself, who would be willing to give up a week of classes and sport, to spend it in the back of beyond with a bunch of juniors? These guys were.

This speech will be about the value of helping people out. Whether it’s a big act or a small one, it is better than nothing.

First, I will give an example of a family that personifies the value of helping out. To stay on the topic of Mount Aspiring, I’ll talk about the Aspinalls.

Looking up at the four house banners, I see four of the most illustrious old boys that have ever walked under the archway. All great in their own right, however I see John Aspinall as a little different.

He didn’t captain his country in sport like Saxton; he didn’t adapt a new science that would save hundreds of war victims like McIndoe; he was not a hero in the Battle of Britain like Park. Aspinall gave back. He and his family helped out his school in such a generous way.

By allowing and assisting OBHS to build an incredible lodge on their land, the Aspinalls have benefited 40 years of students, including you and me. Millions of memories have been made because of the kind act of the family, and that would never have been possible otherwise. No other school in the world has the opportunities that we do. Just let that sink in. The family helped the school out in a way that could not be repaid; and while it is far from the best house at Otago Boys’, any student placed in Aspinall certainly has a lot to live up to.

To help someone out does not have to involve an act as big as this. Whenever you are with someone you can easily help them.

Picking up a piece of paper that someone drops, and giving it back to them, could prevent days of stress and misfortune for them - while it is easy for you.

Sending some notes to a mate after they miss a day of school could cause them to pass an exam which they otherwise would’ve failed. Again this is easy for you.

And while this may sound ridiculous, even just saying hi to someone you don’t know too well as you cross paths, is helpful. They might be going through tough times or be low on confidence. Saying hi can make someone’s day, and it takes no time out of yours.

Everyone who took part in, or donated for the "Shave for a Cure". Just think of all the unfortunate people who we will be helping. That gold coin entry, that could be the difference.

Help out at school working bees, ask a teacher if there’s something that needs done, turn up to the Open Night! I really urge every one of you to make an effort to help people out in your own way.

When the opportunity arose to go to Mount Aspiring as a Year 13, I jumped at it. Because I remembered those three seniors, and I wanted to help out some Year 10’s as the seniors had helped me. And also because I wanted to force one of them to eat some peas, but that’s beside the point.

I met some incredibly diverse boys at camp this year, and did my best to get to know, and help each one – I knew first hand just how memorable it might be for them. Funnily enough, I think they helped me more than I could help them. They were a top bunch and I will never forget the week.

I know that when those Year 10 boys are in their 50’s and attend the school’s 200th reunion, they will tell stories about that camp. I just wonder if I helped them out enough to be in those stories. Because they will definitely be in mine.

As Ronald Reagan once said, “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”