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!

Heaven, not Harvard

Students this time of year often begin working on saint reports, studying the likes of Sts. Theresa, Rita, and Michael, among many others. The recent beatification of Bl. Carlo Acutis reminds us that individuals of this title. In the Catholic realm of heroes and heroines, saints are often misunderstood as an untouchable league of perfection of uncompromising virtue and valor; they’re not. They serve as imperfect models of perfect grace which should serve as a teaching moment to build habits of excellence. In turn, our goal as educators and parents is to prepare our youth for their ultimate reward: heaven.

At the same time some are working on these saint reports, others are drafting their response to the perennial academic dilemma and proverbial gateway to higher education: the college essay. You are subtly asked to be creative but not verbose; erudite but not simplistic; proud but not boastful; and all the while, be sure to tell the truth. Our societal push for students to get great grades to attend great schools so that they can have a great career feels like it starts earlier and earlier in life. Sure, values and morals are important to teach but high test scores are the real benchmark of one’s worthiness, right? Competitiveness may be its own virtue in American society, but the real struggle is within ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against being a high achiever; after all, I am one. And striving for moral and academic excellence are certainly not mutually exclusive goals. But the artificial pressure put on children to be scholars before saints can risk putting the emphasis on the wrong syll-A-ble. Higher rates of anxiety, depression, and social alienation speak to this changing landscape. We need more people to strive for moral excellence but not confuse it with some ethereal plane of perfection.

Encourage children to major in relationships with a minor in friendship; build community with their peers; and be able to model better choices in a world that lacks models of virtue. In doing so, we will witness greater authenticity as a natural outgrowth of taking ownership for one’s actions. Getting into Harvard is easy compared to all that.

It’s a Great Day to be a Bulldog!