When Dean of Students, Simon McFall was a child his grandmother taught him the lesson of doing random acts of kindness through an old wooden chocolate box. The chocolate box was initially a gift from Simon’s grandfather to his grandmother. With the chocolates enjoyed, the box assumed a new life. Simon’s grandmother would put little gifts in the box for Simon to give to others. They might be as simple as a note to give to his mother. The box formed an important bond between grandmother and grandson and helped to impart important life lessons between the two.
When his grandmother died, the box passed appropriately to Simon. It is the last physical piece of his grandmother that Simon holds and, as such, it is a treasure that greatly exceeds its value as a chocolate box. Through his career, he hoped to work at a school where he could replicate his grandmother’s wisdom but be assured that he would not lose this treasured last vestige of a revered woman.
Last year Simon instituted what he calls the Gift of Giving. For twelve days in December, the chocolate box is filled with a small gift then carefully hidden around campus. An intentionally mysterious photo is then sent to the student body so that someone can find the chocolate box. Students can be seen scampering around campus to be the first to find the box. Whoever finds the box then gives the gift that is contained to someone else - often secretly and anonymously. The hope is that they will give to to someone who can really benefit or enjoy the gesture.
In this way Diamond Miller, a voracious reader and writer, received a signed copy of Allegra Hyde’s book “Of This New World”. Another student, who was far from home, received comfort food. Other gifts that appear are passes to sleep through morning meeting or to go to the front of the ever-present line on “wrap day”.
When the person who finds the chocolate box returns it, they in turn receive an even smaller gift than the one they gave. The box is refilled and once again hidden in order to spread a small amount of joy and the greater lesson to the community. In a remarkable and subtle way, Simon’s grandmother has thus been able to bring joy and caring to a Dublin community she never knew.