Saturday, November 15, 2008

Making Change Happen

Earlier this week, I blogged extensively on RJ.org about my attempts to change the Friday night online registration timeslot that was assigned to me the week before by Baruch College. As I was emailing with the Hillel director and the rabbinic chaplain and trying – ultimately without success – to speak with someone in the registrar’s office, I was reminded of an earlier time in my life when I also opted to challenge a school's policy...

It was 1977 and I was a freshman in a typical suburban New Jersey high school. Intent on following in an older cousin’s footsteps, I wanted to join the local chapter of the Key Club, sponsored by Kiwanis, the international service organization. As I learned, however, much to my dismay, in my high school membership in the Key Club was limited to boys, although there was a Keyette Club, the girls’ equivalent. Separate, but equal didn’t do it for me, though, and at the tender age of 14, I was ready to buck the system.

I notified the president of the Key Club that I wanted to join. Although he tried to persuade me to join the Keyettes, I persisted and was granted an “interview.” This was 1977, remember, and so what I really got was a “hazing.” On the assigned day, I showed up after school to the chemistry lab where the meetings were held – the advisor was a chemistry teacher – and faced a roomful of snickering upper class high school guys. Undaunted, I followed their instructions and, after donning a lead apron and a blindfold, stood on a worktable and did what they demanded. I sang the national anthem, sniffed the obnoxious but harmless fumes rising from beakers they held under my nose, ran my hands through the unknown goo they held in front of me and followed a host of equally sophomoric commands. Finally, my ordeal was over and I was free to go home and await the Club’s decision.

About a week later, it arrived. My request to join had been denied – no explanation given. Before the end of the day, my parents were in the principal’s office and within a few months, the Key Club and the Keyette Club were one. By then, however, I’d made my point and felt no need to join.

More than 30 years later, though, the lesson about change and the incredible power we possess to make it happen – even if not on the first try -- lives within me still.