When our children were in kindergarten and grade one, they were standing at the bus stop and my husband, Kevin, overheard this conversation:
Jacob – The kids at school are saying that Santa is not real.
Kathleen – What?
Jacob – The kids at school are saying that Santa is not real. It’s our parents.
Kathleen – Jacob, do you really think our parents fly all over the world on a sleigh, giving gifts to other kids?
And that was the end of it. He was convinced, and we were humbled. Our children just could not imagine that their parents could be that generous at gift-giving.
Since I have arrived, four months ago, I have seen that gift-giving happens at Lakefield College School.
For example, this week, we heard our first chapel talk. There are two gifts embedded in this tradition. The first is that teenagers stand in front of 350+ people and express gratitude for their friends and family. I asked Niko to share his speech with me, as I am pretty sentimental about firsts, and he will forever be my first chapel speech as Head of School. With his permission, I want to share a couple of sections of his chapel talk.
Niko said this:
Nanna, there is not one negative bone in your body; you are the most optimistic, happy, and joyful person in the world. I aspire to have those same characteristics, which at the moment I do not.
The second gift within our traditional chapel speeches is that students give advice to their peers. Niko said this:
I’ve experienced more in my time here at Lakefield than in my entire life. Lakefield is what you make it to be, and that’s what makes it so special. Basketball has been a huge part my journey at Lakefield. Times when I’m stressed and I have a lot of work or when I just don’t feel like me, I’ll just go and shoot hoops and that will make me feel better or distract me from whatever is bothering me. For the people that haven’t found that something, this is the perfect place to find it. Lakefield gives each of us an opportunity to find that thing. We have the facilities, the community, and the resources to find that something that helps you. That is what makes Lakefield so special.
There is a real gift in every single chapel speech when teens express this kind of passion – and vulnerability! – in front of hundreds of others teens. I can assure you – it is very powerful to sit in chapel in those moments, as our students listen.
There is also the gift of sharing talents. Our Grove Society Christmas Gathering is a perfect example of how our community develops passions – we get to enjoy our orchestra, choirs, creative writing, and additional expressions of passions like global initiatives and environmental stewardship. We have had an incredible fall with our Remembrance Day ceremony and our Damn Yankees musical, which are two of the best performances in the country. There is talent at Lakefield College School – and it is reciprocal. Our faculty teach our students to bring out the best in themselves; and I hear our faculty talk about how much they learn from our students. Gift-giving is a gift that gives twice, and there is a lot of generosity in our community.
We are also blessed to be part of a broader community. Lakefield is not just a school with teachers, staff and students. The power of this place is that parents and alumni are also actively involved. When I look around at the decorations right now in chapel, and I can see the care that went in to every decision – the maple syrup, the skis, the snow shoes, and the terrapin (I am waiting for the honey bee to arrive). We are fortunate to have a community that shares the responsibility of caring for and celebrating our students.
Finally, I want to leave you with a thought about the real power of gift-giving.
I believe that our staff are exceptional. They work hard and long hours. They are passionate about their subject and the art of teaching and learning. But there is something more. I felt it as a parent, when my children were here, particularly when they went through some tough times and their teachers, Heads of House and frankly all of the adults that surrounded them, supported them.
Nelson Mandela once said – It never hurts to see the good in someone. They often act the better because of it.
I believe our staff and teachers see the best in our students and go above and beyond to support them to be the best people they can be.
Now that I have lived here for four months, I have to say that I now better understand the expression that Lakefield College is a feeling. Some have called it Grovey and I think that is a perfect word because no one knows what it means. But there is a feeling here that is created because of the relationships between students and between students and staff. I also cannot define that feeling, but whatever it is, it is the gift of this school and being part of this community. And I am grateful to be a small part of it.
So in this season of gift-giving, may you give the gift of sharing your gratitude for others – and expressing it!
May you give the gift of sharing your talents.
May you give the incredible gift of listening to one another.
And, throughout this entire holiday season and beyond, may you give the gift of seeing the best in others.