Dear KES Family:
Years ago, on the morning of September 11th, 2001, my Grade 9 class and I emerged from camping in the northern Ontario wilderness after a week of service: cleaning campsites, gathering garbage, and repairing damaged ‘thunder boxes’ (outhouses). As we waited for our school bus to pick us up, all our thoughts were about food, showers, and clean clothes. Those dreams were quickly shattered when the bus arrived, and the driver told us about the horrible events of “9/11”. As it did for so many, our world changed that day. We lost a kind of innocence. Certainly nothing could have been in greater contrast to the environment we had enjoyed the previous week and the harmony of my international group of 14 and 15-year olds.
As we gathered for assembly this week, I pondered the question of every educator: what do I say? Should I mention world events? Is it appropriate to focus on the wildfires in Australia or the extermination of an Iranian general? I don’t believe in a sanitized education but then again anxiety levels in youth have never been so high. It is almost two decades since 9/11. None of our students were born when it happened. Perhaps their childhood was not as innocent as mine. Terror was simply a genre of movies in my day. As for forest fires, I remember learning in school that they were necessary and good. Some species of trees, like the Jack pine, need the heat of the fire to release the seeds packed away in their pinecones. Nobody is saying that wildfires are good anymore.
It is a surprise to most students upon their return to the School that the Chapel is still decorated for Christmas and the morning readings and carols are selected to reflect the events which occur after the Birth of Jesus. It is about this time when the three kings or wise men follow yonder star and deliver their gifts to baby Jesus. It is also a surprise to the students to learn that it was at this time in the Christmas story when King Herod orders the death of all male children under two years old in Bethlehem. It is an event described in the Gospel of Matthew known as the Slaughter of the Innocents.
It seems that our lives are constantly touched by both joy and sorrow, often in close proximity. To be our best selves our hearts need to be open and vulnerable to experience joy and love, and yet strong enough to withstand those elements which threaten to overwhelm us. And so, what did I talk about during assembly? Inclusion and belonging and social health. We are healthier when we feel like we belong and are accepted as a true friend for who we are. The closer and more genuine our friends, the stronger we will be. We can handle anything together.
This week in photos