Last Thursday we celebrated Middle School Honors Chapel for the second quarter. As I was strolling over to chapel for the service, I had a pleasant conversation with two seventh graders. They were keenly interested in knowing the threshold grade point average for being included on the academic distinction list. It quickly became clear that the question was borne out of more than mere curiosity. One of the seventh grade pair feigned disappointment that the magic number was not 9.0 rather than 8.0, the actual threshold figure. Had it been 9.0, his pal would not have made the list. While the conversation was lighthearted and involved friendly rivals, it did provide impetus for me to reflect on the purpose of Honors Chapels and other events that spotlight many but not all of our students.
One of our fifth grade advisory groups provided the reflective presentation for the chapel, based on a parable of two brothers. The theme of the presentation made the point that things that could and ought to be celebrated are used too often to divide people. That lesson provided me additional cause for reflection, which I shared at the conclusion of the service. I mentioned my chat with my two seventh grade friends and the advisor presentation in those remarks. My message was that an occasion like the Honors Chapel was a chance for us to celebrate not to separate. I urged those who were recognized to respond with a sense of gratitude rather than a sense of superiority. And I urged those who were not recognized in the way that they would have preferred to respond with admiration and inspiration rather than envy. Such responses make especially good sense within the context of the Episcopal ethos at the heart of our school’s mission and provide a particularly important and effective counter to our culture’s tendency toward excessive self-congratulation.
Until next time…