A Thousand Blue Horns

(Or, “The Connectedness of All Things”)

By Bob Bires

Only a fool would conceive the idea of selling 1,000 vuvuzelas to students for a football game in which he would have to stand in front of those students.

As the advisor to McCallie’s Student Council, I am that fool.

We got the idea during the World Cup this summer. Student Council president Grant H. got behind the idea and presented to the other members. Why not use the annoying power of hundreds and hundreds of what sound like wounded cows as a way of trying to intimidate our opponent for the biggest football game of the year? Student Council loved the idea, but they knew to keep it quiet, because they didn’t want our rival school to have the same weapon.

So here’s the math: sell 1,000 vuvuzelas at $5/each that cost $3.10/each and you will have earned almost $2,000 for the Nicaraguan well project.

Who knew it would be so difficult? As far as we could find out, vuvuzelas are not produced in the United States. So we had to find a supplier, who then placed an order in China. It was a lesson in the global economy: imagine Chinese workers putting McCallie stickers on blue horns in a factory in Shanghai, then boxing them up and shipping them to Chattanooga.

We had to break the shipment into six parts, shipped to six different student and faculty addresses in order to get the vuvuzelas through customs quickly. Do you have any idea how much space 1,000 vuvuzelas takes up?

But, really, there was a higher purpose as well. Student Council wanted to support the Upper School project — digging a well with the help of the Christian charity, Living Water International, in a village outside of Leon, Nicaragua. We’ve had students from Nicaragua on and off for over 50 years. We have one student from Nicaragua now. We are always looking for a connection.

So here’s the math: sell 1,000 vuvuzelas at $5/each that cost $3.10/each and you will have earned almost $2,000 for the Nicaraguan well project. That was the Student Council plan. So, the Student Council boys sold and sold and sold. They sold in the dining hall; they sold at GPS; they sold at the Big Blue Block party before the bonfire; they sold at the tailgate; they sold at the game itself.

If the Upper School succeeds in raising the money, we will have funded the $5,000 expense of digging the well in the village. But, one of the many attractions of this program is that our boys can go to Nicaragua and actually dig the well. And that will cost $1,700 for each student and teacher who takes the trip. We hope to subsidize some of that expense as well.

And Student Council will have done its part. So will Keo-Kio with its T-shirt sales. The Missionary Committee with its water bottles. The Key Club with… and on and on. After all, it is an Upper School project.

If you stood with us at last Friday night’s game, or if you can just imagine it in your mind, maybe you are cringing from the thought of that awful racket. But for the members of Student Council, well, maybe instead of bleating plastic horns from China with the colors and logo of a private boys’ school in Chattanooga, they hear water flowing into a can in a small Central American village.

It all fits together.

Bob Bires is Dean of Student Life and a veteran English teacher at McCallie School.

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