The Virtue of Re/connecting

A few weeks ago, I heard about a younger student who was worried they were out of dress code during a Red, White & Blue day we were holding in honor of Veterans Day. Wearing our school gym uniform (a maroon shirt and gray sweatpants) the student felt his shirt wasn’t really red. I happened to be a wearing one of our school shirts and walked into the class where he was and commented “hey, we’re wearing the same shirt!” I stood next to him and reassured him that he was wearing the right colors and the class gave a little cheer.

FULL DISCLOSURE: As a brand afficiando, I am quite comfortable accepting maroon as a substitute for red, especially when children are involved! 🙂

Why share this simple story? Because in looking at it a bit deeper, you realize it’s more than an example about dress code rules; it’s about finding connection with one another. When I was walking back to my office I was overwhelmed with the feeling I had just made that boy’s day and nothing special on my part contributed to it. In that one moment in time, I literally and figuratively stood with him and connected for his class to witness and that made all the difference.

As with so many other feelings and experiences during these final weeks of 2022, we must remind ourselves of the value of reconnecting with one another. The holiday season is naturally a time to do just this, but we need to remember the intentionality that comes with this habit: meeting people where they are. Reconnecting with others in our lives is not a simple proposition. Many of us face various obstacles that do not make this easy or even possible. We often cite personalities or events that prevent us from making these connections. This emphasis on the who or what of reconnecting allows us to rationalize that things can never change. But they can, and they do!

What we forget to consider is when we are. C.S. Lewis reminds us, “You can’t go back and change the beginning but you can start where you are and change the ending.” Reconsidering the role of time in our lives allows us to rediscover the virtue of connecting with those close and possibly those further distanced from us. Connecting may require us to sacrifice, look beyond ourselves, and embrace our vulnerability. But the potential returns are immeasurable!

It’s a Great Day to be a Bulldog!

The Good Ol’ Days

We all romanticize the past. The way things were and the people we knew were second to none. Children today “don’t know what it was like” to live when we were younger. Undoubtedly, older days were simply better days. And yet when we see children today against the backdrop of global turmoil and an epidemic that has led to nothing short of an existential crisis for many adults, we forget to remind ourselves that for them the good ol’ days are now. Today. Not eventually or at some point. Now.

The philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal wrote a collection of reflections in his work Pensées (French for “thoughts” or “reflections”). Written as a form of Christian apologetics, he explores humanist and theological concepts including our perception of time itself. In one of his more poignant lines he writes:

“We never keep to the present. We recall the past. We anticipate the future as if we found it too slow in coming and were trying to hurry it up, or we recall the past as if to stay its too rapid flight. We are so unwise that we wander about in times that do not belong to us, and do not think of the only one that does…”

I often think of my own parents and childhood at the start of every school year, my own “wander about in times.” My father worked for the airline industry and my mother was a homemaker and worked in the food industry when me and my three brothers were all in school. They put the four of us through a combined 52 years of Catholic education. I often joke with parents that they believed in two things growing up: braces and Catholic education. As if a good smile and the sacraments were all you needed; in many respects, they were right.

But during my childhood, I never lacked necessities. We certainly weren’t what you would consider upper class or affluent but you’d never know it from our childhood and our “good ol’ days.” One of the graces of childhood is being immune to the worries and struggles your parents endure: making ends meet, mounting bills, and general parental anxieties. Only now as I raise my own boys can I experience this reality, that my worries and concerns are not theirs nor should they be. Their “good ol’ days” are now.

These days, it’s all too easy (and yet completely understandable) to recall a better past time when faced with so much uncertainty, confusion, and pain. But in working (dare I say fighting) to be more mindful of the present we retrain our mind to be calmer, focused, and quite frankly, happier. Mental pain stems more from our inability to be mindful than it does from the present itself. The way we allow ourselves to be comforted by a familiar past or in the perception of a joyful unknown future is the source of our anguish. By recognizing the glimmer that shines in even the murkiest of waters we remind ourselves of the overflowing grace that surrounds us at all times.

It’s a Great Day to be a Bulldog!