A Small Good Thing
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Teenagers Reflect on What it Means to Live a Good Life

A few months ago, we used our blog to shine a light on Robby McGuire, an inspiring high school English teacher whose Media Communications class sparks conversations about meaningful living among his 13- and 14-year-old students.

Robby’s curriculum includes literature (Into the Wild, Feed, and the poems of Walt Whitman) and media (Catfish, Tangled) that he hopes will inspire his class to consider what it means to live a good life and ponder the role of technology in our search for contentment and purpose.

This past March, Robby shared A Small Good Thing with his class. Many students found meaning in the film and Robby kindly passed along a few of their insightful reflections:

Throughout “A Small Good Thing”, an investment of time in one’s community and relationships appeared to offer happiness that money couldn’t give...Becoming more in tune with the people around oneself--family, friends, neighbors--satisfies the social needs every human has.  Giving back to one’s community and being part of something bigger provides its own type of security: faith that one is needed and never alone.  Human beings are social creatures by nature; perhaps that is where the key to happiness lies.


Pete Salinetti, a small scale produce farmer in the movie “A Small Good Thing”, said that “Financially doing better and doing better as far as life goes are two totally different things”. I agree with this statement and believe the best way to describe it is that most Americans are striving to get their hands on the bruised apple painted solid gold. When we look to those who have wealth it looks very glamourous and exciting, but if we were ever to achieve it we would find that material things can not bring a person happiness...In that moment we’d realize that all we ever really wanted was a regular apple. One that grew from its surroundings into something unique. An apple that had been treated with care by those who interacted with it and was never neglected...The pursuit of happiness should not be the pursuit of fame and wealth, but rather the pursuit of genuine relationships.


“A Small Good Thing” challenges that real happiness is found in community united to live healthy lives, and living while sharing with others is how to live well...Through every example throughout the movie, the people that appeared to be the happiest were the people who had involved themselves in their community and had found a way to serve that community. A life that is lived well is a life that in enveloped in relationships with others.


In order to live well, one must definitely have security.  But security shouldn’t be sought for in possessions or material wealth, rather it should be found in family, love, and compassion towards those around us.  We should feel safe and content with our basic needs, rather than trying to get ahead of our neighbors...I believe it’s important to “serve your country through the community” (as stated in the film) and start changing lives on a smaller scale through little things.  Small acts of compassion lead into something much greater; the faith spreads.  And in this matter, instead of having focused on one person’s self wants, the person focuses on raising up others, and I feel like that is vital to living well.  




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