Michaelmas challenge

Cultivating Courage

September 29, 2014 in Inside SWS

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking about what I might share in this first Connection of the year. Goodness knows I’ve had plenty of time – more than three months – to come up with something thought-provoking, engaging, entertaining or at least mildly interesting. I used to harbor the fantasy that I would diligently sit down at my computer a week in advance and get this task off my “to do” list, but writing doesn’t work like that. For me, it comes from the heart, and springs from something I am experiencing in the moment that is meaningful, and worthy of offering to others.

Over the past few months I have had the privilege of witnessing my brother, a close friend, and a colleague each surrender their fierce desire to be in control of their lives and enter a place of utter discomfort and anxiety. It is that realm of not knowing what’s coming next, who waits around the corner or how the story will end. Many of us find this experience exhilarating – for others it is terrifying. In the latter instance, what can be equally frightening is asking for support. To do so requires courage, and some assurance that your request will be met with a gentle, generous affirmative response.

Whidbey Island poet David Whyte writes, “Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work, a future. To be courageous, is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences. To be courageous is to seat our feelings deeply in the body and in the world: to live up to and into the necessities of relationships that often already exist, with things we find we already care deeply about: with a person, a future, a possibility in society, or with an unknown that begs us on and always has begged us on. Whether we stay or whether we go – to be courageous is to stay close to the way we are made.”

As I think about the year ahead and our work with your children, Whyte’s words and what I have seen modeled by these courageous individuals moving through difficult times, resonate deeply with me. Isn’t our hope to develop in students the capacity to participate fully in life? Isn’t our wish that they will find in their relationships, their work and their community things they can care deeply about? That they will find their way to live in the world with authenticity – to “stay close to the way they are made” – is this not our inspiration each day? Yes, yes and yes, I would answer. By cultivating in children the courage to lean into life’s sharp points, we open the door to the amazing possibilities of the unknown, which beckons them out into the world.

I look forward to seeing you at our Michaelmas celebration next Friday!


Published in the Connection from 9/19/14.