Before I yadda yadda on the first week of school, I want to backtrack and quickly cover the week before the first week of school. We had three days of meetings which covered everything from general announcements to summer book discussion groups.
Most importantly, though, the head of school and director of the middle school each gave us annual themes to consider.
The theme of the year for the entire school is stewardship. Here’s a quote re stewardship in Quakerism:
Stewardship is a coming together of our major testimonies. To be good stewards in God’s world calls on us to examine and consider the ways in which our testimonies for peace, equality, and simplicity interact to guide our relationships with all life.
(Faith and Practice, p. 80)
This theme was repeated at an all-school assembly at the beginning of the school year, and the emphasis was on “taking care” — taking care of ourselves, each other, the environment, the Environment, and the world in general. The new head of our school shared the example of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, in which a tree selflessly gives himself to a boy — indeed lives to serve the boy.
At the divisional meetings, the new director of our middle school shared with us, as she was to share again with the entire middle school later on, an anecdote from her travels in Kenya.
Her proposed theme was “Crossing the River,” and she relayed this story about being stuck in a very uncertain situation in the middle of Turkana where she and the bus she was traveling on were stranded in a queue waiting to cross a river that got too high. She reflected on how this might teach us about accepting the community we are given at any one moment, taking positive risks, offering and receiving trust, and helping one another without judgment.
In the faculty meeting for worship I considered the connection between the two themes. Both, to me, seemed to consider how one manages, or copes with, an environment that is changing beyond one’s control. As the river rises, or the ice floes melt, or the kids seem incomprehensible, what do you do? Certainly, too, it seems my new bosses are meditating on the leadership they want to impart to the school, and they are asking us all to renew our consideration of our own responsibilities and the leadership of our own charges.
Stewardship has a very specific meaning in my own faith. It has to do with the grace of responsibility — the privilege of being entrusted with a domain to oversee and nurture. One often thinks of the parable of the talents, where three servants are given a sum of money to manage. The immediate moral lesson seems to ask whether you squander, neglect, or invest in what you’re given. But I find the real lesson is giving proper attribution to the original owner of those gifts — and proper value to the gift itself. When it’s time to “settle accounts” have you realized what you were entrusted with and from whom?
It’s good practice to take care. It will enable you handle a shifting world thoughtfully and conscientiously. But you are truly transformed when you actually do care — when you own with awe, which is to both engage and yield.