Dear KES Family:
After twenty-five years of service as Headmaster at a boarding school west of us, a friend of mine retired. In an unscripted speech he thanked his wife and all those who have helped him lead a fulfilling and successful life in education. And then he told a story:
On his desk he has two smooth stones. On one is written the word Courage. On the other, Wisdom. They were gifts and for more than two decades they have sat on his big headmasterly desk. In the course of his work, and for more times than he could count, he has made tough phone calls. Calls to parents, calls to lawyers, calls to board members, calls to the police, calls to hospitals and emergency services. (One can only imagine the depth and breadth of communications he has had over the years.) Before each call he took a breath and grasped the two stones, Courage and Wisdom, one in each hand. A former national team second row forward in rugby, he has big hands. The stones are heavy and smooth. They give him strength and clarity of mind. They help him overcome doubt and fear. Quite literally, Courage and Wisdom helped him do his job.
It is a great lesson. We all need courage and wisdom. Wisdom to see the right path, courage to follow it. Courage to deliver tragic news, wisdom to know the right words of comfort. We need these two elements to have strength and decency in our daily lives, not just for phone calls, but for all the human moments that we encounter. In life it is all too easy to rush, to get into a “hurry and be done with it” mind set, to speak without thinking things through. The two stones are silent but they communicate nonetheless, settling the heart and mind. We can’t carry stones in our pockets and purses, but there are times when we would all benefit from pausing and breathing and collecting ourselves before we speak.