Last weekend I learned that a dear friend on the East coast will undergo open-heart surgery on Monday as the result of a freak infection that weakened two pulmonary valves. During the past few days I have imagined what he must be thinking as next week approaches, and how frightening the uncertainty of all this must be. As is often the case with life-threatening situations, the issue of not knowing what comes next, or whether there will be a positive outcome, bubbles up – which raises for me the question of “Is there anything at all we can know for sure?”
This has been percolating in my head as I moved through conversations and meetings this week, and listened to queries from parents, board members, teachers and others wrestling with questions for which there may not be clear answers.
- From a kindergarten parent looking ahead to first grade, “What happens if the teacher doesn’t stay with the class through eighth grade?”
- From a trustee in our discussion of taking on additional debt to move the high school, “What happens if interest rates soar?”
- From a grade school parent sharing concerns about her child’s learning challenges, “What happens if she has dyslexia and we don’t know that?”
- From a teacher in discussion about the school’s administrative structure and planning for the future, “What happens when Nettie and Tracy aren’t here?”
Pema Chodron wrote an exquisite book, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, which explores what she calls the “fundamental ambiguity of being human.” She writes, “As human beings we share a tendency to scramble for certainty whenever we realize that everything around us is in flux. In difficult times the stress of trying to find solid ground – something predictable and safe to stand on – seems to intensify. But in truth, the very nature of our existence is forever in flux.” She goes on to suggest that rather than be disheartened by the uncertainty of life, what if we accepted it – in her words, “decided to sit down and enjoy the ride?” As adults we might be able to do that – but for our children we often yearn for what is safe, secure and predictable.
All this led me to think more deeply about what, in this world of unknowns, can we offer you and your children for sure. What promises can we provide, what unequivocal statements can we make, in our work at SWS? I would offer that:
- Your child will be surrounded and nurtured by a loving and caring community.
- Your child will move into the world with exceeding confidence.
- Your child will learn to think “out of the box,” becoming a flexible problem solver who can face any challenge.
- Your child will develop not only intellectual capacities, but practical skills such using a hammer, reading a trail map, knitting a hat, and cooking a nutritious meal.
- Your child will develop a true love of learning that he or she will carry with them throughout their life.
- Your child will experience beauty and embrace with reverence the world and people around them.
This gives me great comfort and joy, in a life seemingly filled with unanswerable questions and anxious ambiguities. Filling our children’s hearts with love, their bodies with confidence, and their minds with a passion for learning will serve them well as they navigate their life journey.
Hoping you find warmth in friends and family this weekend!