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How to Become Extraordinary

By Clare Ogle, a Milton Hershey School Houseparent

We watch a lot of movies in our student home, and my favorite type are probably the ones that are based on a real story. Movies like “Hidden Figures,” “42,” “Remember the Titans,” and “McFarland USA.”

These stories about real people doing extraordinary things got me thinking:

I don’t think most great people set out to be great. I think it’s actually in the ordinary events of their daily lives that the extraordinary happens.

Take “42” for example. I don’t think Jackie Robinson woke up one day and thought to himself, “I’m going to be extraordinary. I’ll be famous and one day someone will make a movie about my life.”  No, I think Robinson woke up most days and just thought, “I want to play baseball the best that I can with the best players I can play with.” Or something like that. But all of those ordinary games, practices, days, and nights led him to become the first African American baseball player to play in the major leagues. And he continued to hold his ground, maintain his character, and play baseball really well. All of that added up to one extraordinary life, and one awesome movie.

The same is true of Milton Hershey. I don’t think he woke up and thought, “I’m going to be so rich and famous that one day there will be more than 10,000 students who graduated from a school named after me. My chocolate will be sold around the globe and people will hail me as one of the greatest businessmen of all time.”

I think most days Mr. Hershey probably just wanted to have one of his ideas work out well. And later in life, he and his wife Catherine wanted to help as many orphaned boys as they could. They provided for them, worked with them, and tried to set them up to have successful futures.  In doing the normal, ordinary task of loving and raising children, the Hersheys are remembered as extraordinary individuals. They didn’t make a lot of noise when they donated the bulk of their wealth to Milton Hershey School 100 years ago—they did it as though it was ordinary. But what an extraordinary gift they gave!

MHS students hiking

I think most of our lives are the sum of a bunch of ordinary moments that can add up to something extraordinary. As we support the guys in our student home, we don’t typically do extraordinary things. Sure, we go on student home vacations, host special guests, and go to concerts or sporting events. But most of the time, it’s just the ordinary events of everyday life: chores, devotions, homework, van rides, making dinner, and organizing fitness activities.

It’s all of those days, nights, shopping trips, chats in the van, and time spent helping with homework that can add up to an extraordinary life for our students. I think Mr. Hershey understood this concept, too, which is why he wanted his students to live in a home-like environment.

I think the best way to live an extraordinary life is to live a life of character, help others, make the most of the moments we are given, and complete the tasks we’ve been given even when they seem mundane. While many of our days can seem ordinary, I always trust that there is something extraordinary happening.

Pictured above: Clare and her husband, Will, with one of their former students, Kayvon Asemani ’14, at his college graduation. 

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