Our lives are defined by moments.
That was the defining idea in “The Power of Moments,” a book by Chip and Dan Heath that I read earlier this summer. I highly recommend reading all of the book, but I’ll keep my summary of the story short and sweet.
Basically, the Heath brothers say life is broken down into two categories. Peaks and pits. Peaks are positive moments. Learning to ride a bike, your first kiss and your wedding day would all be examples of peaks. A death of a loved one, getting fired from a job and being diagnosed with a severe illness would all be pits.
Learning to ride a bike
Death of a loved one
Diagnosed with illness
All of these moments have a key element in common: they increase your heart rate by putting something on the line. Remember back to the anxiety and excitement of your first kiss. We tend to cherish peak moments and despise pits because we’re engaged in those moments. Your stomach drops when you hear that your loved one has passed. Your grin widens when you realize the bike is going to stay upright. You’re finally doing it, you’re riding a bike. There’s anxiety in the fact that you could fall of and get hurt. The stakes are raised.
The central idea of these moments is that when our lives come to a close, we only really remember peaks and pits. Nobody remembers the mediocre turkey sandwiches they had for lunch at a summer job or times stubbing their toe. These little moments are memorable in the short-term, but it’s the peaks and pits that truly define our lives.
I love this explanation and take on life. The book continues to explain that people, and businesses, should strive to create peaks. This seems simple enough. The more peaks in your life, the more memorable happy moments you’ve achieved. If you can provide peaks to loved ones and co-workers, chances are your relationships and businesses will thrive. Imagine having the thrill of learning to ride a bike for the first time every single day. That’d be an amazing life.
My not-as-short-as-I-had-hoped summary leads me to this statement: JMU should create a mandatory, campus-wide sexual assault awareness and prevention day. Here’s how it works.
Date: The first Wednesday of every semester.
Explanation: Monday-Wednesday-Friday classes will get their first syllabus day in. The same goes for Tuesday-Thursday classes. Students (likely) won’t have much of any homework to worry about. This also ensures each semester starts by joining everyone together to stand up against sexual assault.
Time: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. with an hour lunch break
Explanation: 10 a.m. is enough time for students to sleep in. The 4 p.m. ending leaves plenty of time to still go out Wednesday night. The hour lunch gives a nice break during what will be a deeply emotional day. It’s a mental break.
10-10:30 a.m.: Opening remarks from President Alger, others that helped put the event together.
10:30-11:15 a.m.: Sexual assault survivors/friends of survivors share their stories.
11:15 a.m. – noon: How can we help? This includes talk on how bystanders can help. The discussion includes prevention as well as an explanation on how to support survivors. Consent should be discussed.
Noon-12:15 p.m.: Break into groups in different areas of campus.
12:15-1 p.m.: How should these incidents be reported? Discuss the reporting process,
1-2 p.m.: Lunch at your respective location.
2-3:30 p.m.: Group discussion. Mandatory topics include consent and resources for survivors. The small group setting allows for people to ask questions comfortably.
3:30-4 p.m.: Group debrief. Talk to your group leader about what did and didn’t go well during the day to improve next semester’s event. All students should also be given avenues to discuss sexual assault further over the course of the semester if they’re interested.
By creating an entire school-sponsored day around sexual assault prevention/awareness you’re sending a very clear message to students that James Madison University does not tolerate sexual assault. The school literally cancels a day of classes to address the issue. All students must attend like an assessment day. It’s doable. It’s a logistical challenge, but it’s worth the challenge.
The chance for sexual assault survivors to speak out both in small groups and on a larger scale is huge. Survivors never lose their voice, but going through a traumatic experience and having to remember that moment repeatedly during an appeals process or even counseling can temporarily dampen the voices of some. This event would give them a platform not just to be heard, but to have us truly listen. In some cases, they’d literally be a given a platform (stage) to stand upon and share their stories. They’d get a chance to have 20,000 kids standing around them saying, “We’re with you.”
In essence, a pit is turned into a peak.
Speaking in front of 20,000 people raises the stakes. There’s nervousness, there’s anxiety, but those emotions allow for the speaker to create a peak by sharing their story and getting supported by every single Duke.
By cancelling class, the stakes are raised for everyone there. This signals that the day matters. It’s not an event on the weekend or an evening discussion at UREC, this is every teacher and student and employee coming together to build a healthier community. When you raise the stakes and show that you care, you’re setting the stage to create a peak.
Imagine a student graduates JMU and they’re asked to share their favorite memory from college. They won’t remember every late night library session or all the Starbucks runs. They’ll remember peaks. JMU football winning the national championship. A memorable snowball fight on the Quad.
Why shouldn’t JMU’s twice annual sexual assault awareness and prevention day also fall on that list?
Life is defined by moments. If I’m JMU, I’d want to create peaks for my students. Right now, many Dukes are in the middle of pits.
JMU, be the change. Create a peak.