The One Where We Welcome Our Students

mmr_7779To all of our returning students; welcome back. To all of our students who started school at Sandy Spring Friends School for the first time the week before last; welcome, we are glad you are here.

Every morning when I wake up, one of the first things I think about is how we can make Sandy Spring Friends School an even more amazing place. I spend time on this question because no other question makes sense. I don’t want to think about how we can make Sandy Spring Friends School less amazing. I don’t want to think about how we can make Sandy Spring Friends School more ordinary, more like other schools. I already know how to do that. We would have less art. We would ask fewer questions. We would have less time for reflection. We would have less purple hair. We would not sit expectantly in Meeting for Worship. We would eat less food from the garden. We would be less welcoming. We might learn stuff but we would not see the connection to taking action. We would not belt out the George Fox song at the end of this assembly.

It still leaves me asking several questions. What makes Sandy Spring amazing? Why would grownups want to work here, not just this year, but every year until we mark their dedication in decades and not always just one or two. I think I know the answer to this one as well. Actually, there may be two answers. The first one has to do with practical stuff. We want you to learn important things like how to tie your shoes, count to 10, memorize the multiplication tables, learn Euclidian geometry, figure out calculus, and master finance. In other words, we are teaching you to run without falling, to count without using your fingers, to balance your creative side with your analytical side, to send rockets to outer space, to play billiards, to paint paintings, to build buildings and to invest wisely in the stock market. Learning these things contribute to your being independent, competent, engaged and happy.

But there is a second reason why so many adults get up early in the morning to come to our school all the while feeling as if theirs is the best job in the world. I think of it as the secret sauce. Hiding in plain sight. The thing that is both obvious and rare, scarce but will never run out, vital yet often unspoken, secular and spiritual at the same time, invisible but everywhere. I’m talking about the mathematics of recognizing the Light within each person, of acknowledging the Great Natural Talent that everyone of us possesses. We recognize a spirit moves through this place and when we are here we grow, we learn, we deepen our understanding, we thrive.

There is a story of people who are made to sit at a table that is six feet across. Each is given a bowl of food which is put right in front of them. But there is a problem. The spoons they must use are six feet long. They are hungry, they have food in front of them but they cannot eat. Until one picks up their spoon and puts the food in the mouth of the person sitting across the table. And in that way we all eat. In Europe, this parable uses spoons. China has a similar parable where the chop sticks are six feet long. This story is also told in Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist cultures.

In Sandy Spring culture, the parable helps us understand that we thrive when we teach other, we learn from each other, we recognize the GNT within each other, and we are glad.

And I am glad to welcome you to a new school year.

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