This week in The Age there was an opinion piece by Allan Shaw, who has just retired from being Principal of The Knox School. Allan reflected, “Leading a school is the best job in the world, bringing together professional staff and parents to build a community around children and young people. But occasionally, you have some of the worst days imaginable.”
That has certainly been my experience, I feel so grateful
and humbled by having the honour of being Principal of
Parade College. But I don’t feel that way every day!
That is a lot for many of our members of our community to confront at the moment. It can easily lead us down roads of sadness, panic and despair.
I struggle with this myself. Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a conversation with Fr Greg Boyle, Jesuit priest the founder and director of Homeboy Industries, the world's largest gang-intervention and rehabilitation program.
Greg calls us to Joy and Compassion. As a Jesuit he offers strategies or techniques – he calls them exercises to keep us joyful and connected. I offer them to you based on the insights of one of Greg’s brother Jesuits, Jim McDermott who offers three strategies to cope with Lockdown 6.
This sounds simple. But taking time to be present to our experience allows us to become more fully present to ourselves. After all the busyness of our day-to-day life, we stop to catch up with ourselves and to learn what is going on inside of us. In each of the lockdowns, we each made incredible sacrifices.
To be confronted with Lockdown 6 is dispiriting and not a little bit frightening. Part of spiritually coping with our present moment is about allowing ourselves the time and space to feel what we are feeling right now.
Panic is often fear that has been too long ignored. Lashing out at others can be much the same—an expression of something inside us that we have not yet taken the time to actually see and hear.
In the present day experience, we allow God to be present to us. And maybe in this moment God can help us to be present to ourselves, to be caring and gentle with ourselves in the same way we would be to a child or loved one that is No. 15 25 August 2021 scared or suffering. We share that compassion with others that press our buttons and endeavour to cherish them with care and gentleness.
When I am scared or angry my world can get really small. This tends to be a self-perpetuating cycle; the smaller my world gets, the more out of control I feel, and the more defensive I get.
If we take a step back from our own situations and concerns right now, and sit with God looking out on our blessed world, what do we notice?
The first thing that stands out to is the degree to which reports about the pandemic are all over the place. I can get worked up about all this. But from the more detached point of view, I feel less emotionally invested and more aware I need to read more widely and think critically about what we are being told.
An even bigger thing that I notice when I try to look out on the big picture is the billions of people who have not yet had the benefit of one shot, let alone the opportunity for a booster.
As Delta runs wild, most of the world is completely unprotected. Who hasn’t been moved watching vision of the crisis unfolding in Afghanistan.
I can’t say that I know exactly what to do with that information. If I were to wait as long as possible to get a booster shot, would that help more people elsewhere get vaccinated? Can I can contribute to Caritas or World Vision that might enable refugees or others abroad to get vaccinated?
But in a sense, the point of the exercise is awareness. What is this world that I am living in? The more I can stay grounded in that reality, the more I open my own life to other people’s needs and to the possibility of being able to help in some way.
3. Look ahead with acceptance (and maybe hope)
The thing that I find hardest to accept right now is the possibility that rather than just a couple terrible years of our lives, COVID may be here to stay in one form or another—and with it, things like masks and variants and sickness and lockdowns. I don’t want to believe that. I hope I’m wrong. But it’s not clear. And if this is not a blip but our new reality, what then?
Sometimes I find a simple mantra can help me accept the world as it is. It’s just three words that I repeat to myself quietly. “Now. Here. This.”
In one sense all three words serve the same purpose. They ground me in the present. Now. Here. This.
It also holds a strange kind of anticipation. This that stands before us, this is the life in store for us. It is not a life we would have chosen—God, no. But here it is. Now. And who knows what it may hold? Hope.
I hope the College can support you in the now.
Please reach out to the College in times of need. Your son’s Tutor Teacher, House Leader, Student Wellbeing Leader and/or the College Counsellors continue to be available to assist them during remote learning.
Our counsellors can be contacted, within usual school operating hours, via email on the following addresses: -
Bodkin House Students
Hughes House Students
Lynch House Students
Treacy House Students
Please avail of opportunities to connect with your son’s teachers at Student Progress Interviews conducted on MS Teams (5.03pm to 8.28pm) on Thursday 9 September and Monday 13 September.
A reminder also that Monday 30 August has become a student-free day to provide students and teachers with a break from remote learning and prolonged screen time.