There’s a little known anecdote about the great American novelist Henry James that came to mind when I witnessed our school’s Peace Rally recently, led by our 8th grade. When James’ nephew asked him for advice on the three most important things in life, James reportedly said the following: “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” What an answer! Think on everything not included in list that James could have added. Kindness thrice-chosen just rings with a trinity of belief and conviction, as if the choice to be kind places everything else humanly possible in relief.
Imagine the power, then, when the leaders of your school, your 8th graders, choose kindness as their motif and share it with the four to fourteen-year-olds assembled. Indeed, the focus was on what empowers us to be better human beings, something our 8th graders brought to life for our younger students by naming kindness as a formidable superpower. In so choosing it and standing up for ourselves and for those whose power has in some shape or form been diminished or taken away, we at St. George’s become superheroes for all. We watch over a community as if wearing a cape and answering the call or siren.
To bring the point home, one 8th grader, Finn, wore a cape throughout the skits and articulated the reason why: “When someone is acting as a bully, they are trying to take your power away. Remember … we’re all superheroes here, so we need to hold onto our power. Don’t give it to someone who is choosing to be unkind.”
This whole notion was brought to life when the 8th graders enacted skits as representative scenarios, such as a younger child being picked on by older children until another older kid steps in to save the day. There was then a student being ostracized at lunch, compelled by subtle comments and suggestions to not join the table until one student put on his metaphorical cape and sat by the isolated boy, inviting others to join them. A skit where several students “flex on” Ben for not having the newest iPhone or other status symbols of privilege was by far the favorite crowd pleaser! (And if you don’t know the phrase “flexing on me” as a metaphor for one person flexing muscle and power over others in an aggressive, hurtful posture, you know it now!)
The rally concluded with the 8th grade leading us all in saying our Peace Pledge:
St. George’s citizens demonstrate perseverance, integrity, respect and compassion. To keep our school safe, friendly, and peaceful, we will do our part to: 1. Speak up. Say what you want to stop and ask for help when needed. 2. Reach out. Be an ally, buddy, and peace builder for everyone. 3. Choose kindness. Be respectful and friendly with your words and actions. Celebrate and appreciate each other!
It was this moment in hearing those words said in unison, perhaps more than any other thus far this year, that reminded me why I’m so fortunate-- why we’re all so fortunate-- to be a part of the St. George’s community. The 8th grade took their leadership role seriously and had the audacity to at once have fun with the reenactments and be sincere in their intentions. Their audience was receptive, respectful, and certainly entertained!
I’ve attended or worked in schools where that 8th grade opportunity to lead and be the positive carriers of culture cannot happen when the children are trying too quickly to take off their capes of middle school character for a high school guise. Not here. Our superheroes wore the signifiers of St. George’s proudly. They’re wearing their capes and inviting us to join them.
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Did you know? October is National Bully Prevention Month. Be sure to read the Counseling Connection feature in today’s Flame (10/17/19) for more information about how we work hard to keep St. George’s safe, friendly and peaceful.