On Sunday night, following a torrential downpour and a brief evacuation of Soldier Field, concert-goers were finally able to reenter the stadium as they anticipated the delayed main event, Coldplay’s A Head Full of Dreams tour. Each attendee received a Xyloband that was integrated with the concert production. A simple LED band flashed in time to the music and connected 45,000 people of all ages and walks of life. Whether you sat in the chairs, stood on your feet, or danced the night away, every person felt like an active participant as Coldplay sang Hymn for the Weekend.
As a Chicago resident, drastic changes in temperatures and weather patterns are a part of life in the Windy City. After performing several new songs, with some classics sprinkled in, Chris Martin thanked everyone for braving the storm to attend the concert. Just to his left, he saw a sign held up by a little boy named Kenny. This was Kenny’s first concert. In that moment while the stagehands set up the piano for the next song, Chris Martin spoke a few words and extended a simple act of kindness. He did not want Kenny to think that attending a concert should be this hard so he invited him onstage to sit with him while he performed Everglow. He gave Kenny his seat and proceeded to play and sing while on his knees. It was a small gesture, maybe one that did not have much impact on anyone else, but it will leave a lifetime impression on Kenny and me.
We think sometimes that in order to make a difference or have an impact it requires grand acts of generosity. The truth is that it requires much less. Making a difference can be as simple as showing compassion and kindness to others. It is about acknowledging the difficulties people face daily in order to participate in society that many others take for granted. It is about seizing opportunities to make life a little easier for those who struggle. It is about understanding in the midst of our problems that someone else is suffering far worse.
Today, millions of Americans face challenges such as access to quality education, affordable child care, and meaningful employment opportunities to name only a few. We push these realities from our minds to avoid feelings of pain or guilt. However, if we look hard enough, a chance to make a difference presents itself daily whether in our jobs, conversations with strangers, or little acts of generosity. Sometimes what we consider insignificant can make a big difference in someone else’s life.
For higher education, making a difference starts with shifting focus to a forgotten student population, the majority. Attending college should not be hard. Students across the United States are facing disillusionment with a system that was designed for the greater good. The same system that was designed to provide better opportunities for all individuals, but struggles today to create pathways for a majority of students to access affordable, quality educational options. What if institutions focused less on state-of-the-art buildings and gourmet food and instead focused on increasing diversity across socio-economic backgrounds? What if institutions used their large endowments to create sustainable and affordable options that removed barriers in order for the majority to access a quality education? What if we thought about all of this in terms of just one student?
Sometimes the idea of revolutionizing a system grounded in tradition can seem impossible. So what if we focused on making a difference for only one? What if each of us sacrificed a little so that we could make an impact on just one person’s life? What if we treated everyone like Kenny?
“And you get a head
A head full of dreams
You can see the change you want to
Be what you want to be.”
A Little Side Note: Thank you for following our blog for the past two years. We hope that our posts have inspired our readers to dream big, think outside the box, and always continue to make a difference. Together, we can turn our “head full of dreams” into a reality.