Thankful in the Midst of Sorrow

Like many of you, my wife, Cathy, and I were transfixed by the horrific scenes from Paris over this past weekend.  Understandably, each of us responds to such tragedy differently.  Some of us want to bury our heads, wish it away, change the channel. Others want to exact revenge on those who would take life so violently.  Most of us want to know how we can help, what we can do.  As I reflect on those whose lives were taken in Paris and in Beirut, where more than forty died on Friday as a result of two car bombings, I am drawn to a bittersweet sense of sorrow and thankfulness.

I am overcome with sorrow for those whose lives were cut short, and for those who lost a loved one. There is little that compares with the grief experienced when a life ends too soon. Twenty- seven years ago, Cathy and I buried our first son, David, who lived only nine hours.  I often find myself thinking about David and the life he did not experience; I know I will think about him the rest of my days.  Like many, I grieve both for those who have died and for those forced to say goodbye to a loved one far too soon.

And yet, on the other hand, I am compelled to be thankful in the midst of sorrow. I am thankful to be a part of the Walker community whose first core value is the “belief in the infinite worth and dignity of the individual.”  At a time like this, when children have so many questions about such tragic events, it is important for adults to remind them how important life is and how much we must treasure each individual. This is particularly important in a diverse community like that found at Walker.  Though we have different backgrounds, come from different cultures, and experience life differently, learning to appreciate our differences is a critical part of our mission.

Life is an amazing journey, filled with exuberant highs and fraught with challenging lows. While it may seem natural to want to shield those we love from that which is difficult, it is neither wise nor healthy. Child Psychologist Michael Thompson, who will speak to our community in March, reminded me this summer that “during a crisis, children want to be with those they love and trust.” Michael would encourage each of us to be present, to listen, to respond thoughtfully, and to encourage young people to reach out for support when they have questions.

Earlier today a friend shared a wonderful message from TV personality Mr. Rogers that speaks directly to us as we walk our children through frightening moments:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”- Fred Rogers.

Mr. Rogers makes an important point – look for the helpers when life is difficult. Please know that everyone at Walker is poised to be a helper for each and every student.

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This entry was posted in Head of School, Schoolwide by Jack Hall. Bookmark the permalink.

About Jack Hall

Jack Hall is the Head of School at The Walker School in Marietta, Georgia. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre at Davidson College and holds a Master of Science in Athletic Administration from Georgia State University and a Master of Arts in Education Administration from Columbia University where he was also a Klingenstein Fellow at Columbia University.

One thought on “Thankful in the Midst of Sorrow

  1. I really appreciate your blog and in particular this piece. Thank-you for emphasizing that we need to treasure the individual and strive to appreciate and understand our differences. The xenophobia in response to recent events, and with it our loss of compassion for hordes of suffering peoples has been too apparent in the rhetoric of many.

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