Last week Ann Mellow, Associate Director of the National Association of Episcopal Schools (NAES), visited Episcopal schools in Arizona- including All Saints’. As part of her visit to All Saints’, she was able to attend CrossWORLDS. CrossWORLDS is an annual multicultural celebration at our school. Her experience of the event- and particularly our art show- inspired her latest blog that I am happy to share with readers of this blog.
I was lucky to visit All Saints’ Episcopal Day School in Phoenix, Arizona this past week while the spring art show was on display. As I entered the art studio, I noticed a simple, hand-painted sign which read, “Please take responsibility for the energy you bring into this space.”
This sign really made me stop and think. It did not assume eventual bad behavior (such as the “seven deadly sins of the art room” I once saw posted in a middle school art studio). Nor did it invoke creativity, hard work, focus, or any number of other specific attributes. Instead, it simply asked us be mindful and intentional, recognizing that whatever we bring into a room affects not only ourselves, but others.
May is a crazy time of year in schools. Ironically, just when the year is “winding down” we feel more frazzled than ever. Frustration comes easily, and our quotient of mercy can be all used up. Maybe some students have displayed an appalling lack of judgment in the last weeks of school. Perhaps the overload of school events and field trips has worn us thin. Maybe, like the students, we find ourselves counting the days until school is out.
It’s a time to pay extra attention to the energy we bring into our classrooms, schools, homes, and relationships — and to help our colleagues, students, and parents in those moments when the end-of-year-frazzles threaten to get the better of us.
Ann’s reflections resonate strongly with me, and her reference to “our quotient of mercy” is particularly compelling. That term also put me in mind of a consistent concern addressed by Pope Francis. He has spoken regularly about the perniciousness of gossip; the language he uses in speaking of the evils of rumor and gossip is uncompromising. At various times he has spoken of gossip as poison or social murder and urged people to join him in being “conscientious objectors” to gossip. One of the reasons for the high esteem with which many people of various traditions regard Pope Francis is that he speaks frankly and regularly about real-life issues. The Pope’s words about the effect of rumor and gossip in a church apply just as much to a school like this one. Gossip is a real-life issue for our school community, one more distressing in light of the values articulated in The All Saints’ Way to which our community aspires. As we seek the energy we need in May, perhaps we can commit together to being conscientious objectors to gossip so that our quotient of mercy will not be sadly depleted in damaging ways.
Until next time…