A meditation entitled “Our If-Then World,” from the Reverend Daniel Heischman, Executive Director of the National Association for Episcopal Schools, focused upon the great disappointments we’ve all experienced to varying degrees this academic year. He was specifically thinking about the promise of the vaccine and the disappointment felt when so many protocols returned with the Delta variant surge. I know I’m preaching to the choir here.
“Human beings tend to gravitate toward an “if-then” world,” Heischman writes. “If we work hard, we will be rewarded. If we live a good life, God will bless us. If we play the game, whatever that may be, we will realize our dreams….Many of the battles we are currently seeing, or experiencing, in our country today, may well be due to this feeling of letdown from unrealized expectation.” His larger point was that a graceful acceptance is a powerful antidote. It inoculates us spiritually against what ails us through all the divisiveness and disappointment.
Heischman goes on to muse that “All schools—Episcopal schools among them—have a deep attachment to the ‘if-then’ world. Episcopal schools, however, have an important counter message: we emphasize grace, meaning in the moment, and, above all, hope. That hope does not blind us to reality—that would be naïve optimism—but bestows upon us the God-given blessing of holding on, of knowing that there will be an end, endless as it now seems.”
Heischman’s words made me reflect deeply and want to share what can only be described as a blessing delivered to the St. George’s community, the grace bestowed upon StG by the Reverend Frances “Boo” Kay, Head of School at Bishop Noland Episcopal Day School in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
First, a bit of background information: Like most all schools and citizens of Lake Charles, Bishop Noland was impacted mightily last year by Hurricane Laura. They lost vast swaths of their campus to Laura, and indeed still do not have a roof over one of their facilities. Power was out for weeks, and repair materials were impossible to come by. It took a good month for their community to return to campus, and a year later they still require further repair and restoration.
Such an experience is why, in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Ida, just a day or two out as I was struggling to get my and our school’s footing on how to recover and what to most prioritize, I reached out to Boo for advice. We’d never spoken before, but I’d never felt more generosity of spirit or wisdom of counsel than in that conversation. There was such a grounding in the reality of her experience through Hurricane Laura—the practical need of power and water above all to open, that disrepair and the long process of insurance assessment need not close down your campus in the interim; that faculty need to know immediately that you’ll take care of them and continue to pay their salaries as they’re scattered across the country. I doubt we’d have opened in two weeks’ time had I not had that conversation with Boo and heard about Bishop Noland.
That would have been enough. But a month later a box came in the mail with what must have been a letter from every student attending Bishop Noland! Hundreds of letters. They are a thing of elementary school beauty, replete with crayons, magic markers, ingenious misspellings, construction paper folds and messages pure of heart and soul. "Stay strong" or "It's going to be hard, but hard does not mean impossible" or "It's going to be okay." Such messages do not read cliché when written in crayon and enfolded within a drawing of a school still standing and a stick figure smiling. They are as inspired as inspiring.
So that is grace, is it not? Something freely given in the moment, a gift from God, generous of spirit, and that uplifts those around you. That would have been more than enough.
But atop that mountain of goodwill was a more officially sealed envelope in school stationary. It contained a check for almost $5000. Boo Kay and Bishop Kay Episcopal Day School had raised this through a "dress for a cause" day unbeknownst to us. What they couldn't have known is that we'd reopened our StG Community Fund after Hurricane Ida, something you all know we started with the pandemic to "lend the shield of St. George" to those most in need within our community. The giving and contributions from within our own community were generous and numerous, but this time we were having a hard time keeping up with the demand with so many affected and applying for aid. We couldn't fulfill all of these requests until this check came through. It fulfilled that final need, immediately. We were able to reach out and complete the final asks. It was profound joy and relief to be able to do so. It was a blessing if I've ever seen one.
I'm struggling with finding the right way to repay this gracious act—this, after all, a blessing from a school and community who are still themselves recovering from Hurricane Laura last year and who took in water from Ida and the ensuing tropical storm and received more damage on top of it this year.
In this I enlist your help. Ideas are welcomed. We have been given more than enough through such a gracious act of another school community. We have been shown the power of our own community through the community of others. We have been reminded of the good happening among our larger Episcopal school community, embodied and manifest in Reverend Boo Kay and Bishop Noland Episcopal Day School. We have been given such a gift to be able to pay it forward and to build upon this newfound relationship with Bishop Noland Episcopal Day school.
As I think about the best “Boo” I could ever imagine the month of October, I look forward to finding real means of service in giving thanks this November to Bishop Noland Episcopal Day School.
- Head of School