As our first week of school concluded, our fourth through eighth grade students brought their backpacks to Friday Chapel to have them blessed for the year. As a follow up on Monday, three eager Kindergarten students helped me to unpack my own backpack, which was loaded for the day. As we unpacked, the students found my laptop, my snack, my water bottle, my math book, my notebook, and my planner. These are common items that each student brings to school each day and can create a rather heavy load.
In addition, however, we found several other “items” that frequently find their way to school with our students and add a much heavier weight to their backpack and to their day. Those might include worry, fear, guilt, shame, and anxiety. Perhaps a student is worried about making new friends, or finding her way to a new classroom, or remembering her locker code, or forgetting her P.E. uniform. Maybe a student is embarrassed or afraid he will be in trouble for any one of these things. Maybe there is a forgotten homework assignment or a lack of confidence in material that is included on a quiz. Perhaps there is worry about leaving Mom or Dad for the whole day as one adjusts to a new school schedule. There are so many reasons why a student might worry, and that worry can lead to fear, guilt, shame, and anxiety. The baggage can be heavy, and that silent baggage can make or break a day for a student.
My Kindergarten helpers helped me find some other “items,” however, that we could bring to school to take away the heavier thoughts and burdens. If we can bring joy, a big smile, kind words, a positive mindset, forgiveness, and friendship for everyone, the worry, fear, guilt, shame, and anxiety may lessen or go away. When we can extend compassion to one another and a listening ear of understanding, our “backpacks” will become much lighter. Each one of us has the opportunity to make the day better for someone else. The challenge to everyone as we begin the school year is to be kind, smile, listen, be positive, and reach out to be that friend who can make something good happen for other people. It’s an easy challenge to accept. Already, my backpack feels lighter!
Head of School