Gone are the days when children played for fun, when kids involved themselves in extracurricular activities because they enjoyed them and it was relaxing, not merely to add a line to their college application. In the world today, fun is bartered as students vie for the Captain’s position on several sports teams, forcing teachers and coaches to give in to their demands for important positions on the team.

It appears as if pupils squeeze the jugular until their demands are met. High school students run from one activity to another, juggling schoolwork and sports and a variety of other activities, stressing themselves and their parents. Parents play in to this game too, joining in with their progeny in applying subtle pressure on the role-assigning authorities. Colleges not to be outdone, provide illustrations of the wonderful extra-curricular activities and service projects that their previously admitted students were involved in. They sound like Spiderman or Superman: building clinics in Guatemala, constructing schools in Africa, digging wells, planting trees, and the list goes on. What superhuman tasks-all in a week of visiting the place. All these feats of charity over spring break or winter break, along with academics and involvement in sports.

What I find ironic is that these super heroes who go half way across the world to perform all these charitable acts, often lack basic courtesy to fellow students, cannot acknowledge a peer or a colleague who is not “popular” and do not have a kind word to say to another person who has less than them. I have heard the same high school students who are involved in all these glorious acts, pass derogatory comments about people who are not as blessed as they are. Do colleges really believe that students can travel to another continent, learn the language, culture and ethos of the community, and within a week or two build a school, or clinic? In most countries it will take more than a week to assemble all the required building materials and get the formalities for construction completed.

Thus when I hear of these extraordinary feats accomplished by high school students, I am in awe of them, while finding it impossible to believe their story. When community service is performed without any feelings from the heart, it is the most uncharitable act. Cheers to those who in a quiet, unsung way go about doing good works from the heart and are gentle to those around them, who have a kind word for the unpopular kid in their class and who reach out to members of their community, with no ulterior motive. May colleges be discerning!