166 residents live in Lomond, a farming town: one of the smallest towns I’ve visited.

So, moment of truth: What were the students like? Well, they were beyond my wildest dreams. The depth of their discussions were more innovative, more thoughtful, and more forward-looking than most schools I’ve visited on the tour. For example, while I was talking about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a core part of my assembly presentation, one student responded by noting, “What worries me is that as bionic parts are being used more and more for the body, discrimination against ‘less human-looking’ people will be an issue.”

Students recently participated in a competition by the University of Lethbridge to build a big construction project built solely out of donated food cans called, ‘CANstruction’. This is currently displayed at the Center Village Mall in Lethbridge.

We used this as an example for the workshop.

I asked students, “What would need to happen for you to say that this was a wild success?” Students answered, citing the number of views, the number of people receiving the message, the lower rates of hunger within the population, the visual appeal of the display, and number of people who relate to the message. Solid answers. But, when I pressed on them to distill this project down to a mission statement, they said: “To donate cans to a local food bank to reduce local hunger.”

None of them said it was to win the competition. Why?

Well, it’s because they didn’t want to admit that they would benefit from doing good. I asked students: “If you donated thousands of cans of food, and the local hunger went down by 10% but lost the competition, would you still say that this was a massive success?” I further pressed them: “Then, why bother entering the competition? Why bother taking the 4,600 cans all the way to Lethbridge?” (Yes, 40 students in a town of 166 collected 4,600 cans!) “Why bother fulfilling competition requirements to assemble the cans into the shape of a tractor?”

Students acknowledged, first sheepishly and then proudly, that they did it to win. I asked them: “Well, then, Is reducing hunger the primary objective, or is it community building?” Last year, Lomond Community School’s CANstruction had raised over 8,000 cans, when the entire Lethbridge competition raised 11,000 cans. All the other schools combined was only 3,000. Lomond had their local businesses, parents, and school – everyone – participate. It was a huge deal, and they take great pride in it. And they’re known for it.

But, shouldn’t students be working towards the ‘greater good’ at the expense of their own personal gain? Isn’t this what we’re taught?

I disagree.

We’re afraid to claim that we’re doing good, to benefit from doing that good. You can do good things for others, while doing good things for you. In fact, that’s the way it should be. Always. Why would you do things for yourself that hurt others? You should always do things for yourself that do good for others, as well. And, that’s okay.