From the Dean's Desk: Offering Visions of Hope

October 11, 2017

At the risk of sounding irresponsible, I have stopped reading the newspaper. Actually, let me qualify that: I have not been able to read the newspaper. As I sit at the table each morning and look at the pages of The New York Times, I somehow lose my focus a few sentences into any article I start. Maybe age is diminishing my attention span. More likely is that there just seem to be so many crises going on “out there” that I can no longer digest them. Do you remember Houston? It wasn’t that long ago—and yet it currently stands fourth or fifth in line behind other hurricanes and the massacre in Las Vegas. This is not to say that care, thoughts, prayers and donations of all kinds are not necessary for the victims of these disasters. We all need to do what we can to help. It is more that in the face of so much difficult news, we need visions of hope.

We are entering the season of autumn. Nature is dying outside, days are shortening. Yet on the brisk clear days, there is something bracing in the air. The color of the leaves and light give everything a golden hue. This is the season of Michaelmas. Whatever you believe, the image of Michael is compelling. He is the archangel who waits—who waits to help until he is called upon. How is he called? Through actions of courage, big and small. Any decision to act in the face of uncertainty is a call to Michael. What does that mean? It means that once you decide to do or try something that fills you even with the smallest uncertainty, anxiety or fear, somehow you seem to find the courage to do it. All it takes is to say yes—and mean it, of course. One way to picture that strength and courage is that it is the archangel’s support—like a sword of light giving you a tap on the shoulder. Whatever you believe, that is a comforting image.

So in the face of this diet of disasters, one does not have to look further than our own community for images of hope and inspiration. In this season of the dying of nature and the dimming of days, there has been much here that says: we are a small community, but a thriving one. In the face of difficult odds, we are facing challenges and finding things to celebrate. What, you may ask, are these things?

  1. The pageantry of horse and rider, soaring arrows, billowing yellow silks and smell of baking bread—just a few of the impressions that marked the celebration of our school-wide Michaelmas celebrations.

  2. The sight of people talking and enjoying delicious cheeses and chocolates outside of the grade school building lit by a single string of bare bulbs, as we wound down a successful Back-to-School Night. We were all filled with the inspiration of the Waldorf 100 video and the breakout groups led by our dedicated teachers. People hung around for a good forty-five minutes past the ending point of the evening to enjoy each other’s company.

  3. The friendly faces of Firmenich workers, joined by board members and even a parent, planting the rain garden, building an outdoor kitchen and repurposing our greenhouse. (This work would not have been possible without the generosity of community members who gave gifts of their skill, vision, time, money and backhoe!) The smell of pizza as our seventh graders prepared lunch for them—fresh from the baking oven.

  4. A full Saturday leadership retreat with members of our Board, College, Faculty and Parent Council joining together to look into the future and create a vision of what our school might look like. A highlight of this wonderful day was hearing the biography of our school offered by Caroline and Bob Phinney (who came out to join us on his birthday, no less).

  5. At the far side of the garden, a sukkah rose to celebrate the Jewish harvest festival. Classes were welcomed by the third graders to join them for lunch.

  6. Across the school grounds, scattered evidence of the generosity and hard work of parents: a playhouse rebuilt, soundproofing tiles mounted in the fourth grade classroom, new stumps in the play yards—these are just a few of the many contributions of time and money.

These events—at all levels of our community—speak of a community that is working together to not only keep our school alive, but to thrive. These are what might be called Michaelic moments —for when we can be taken by fear, bitterness, or divisiveness, we choose to celebrate this education, our children, each other: our school.

So, keep those in mind who are suffering around the globe. Unfortunately, there may be more than our imaginations can compass. But there are people out there who need us. And while we reach out, let us also celebrate that our feet are firmly planted in the soil that is our school. Thank you to everyone who made these special events possible. By the way, this is not yet making reading the paper easier—but I can hope.