Courage, Strength and Hope
As we raise young adults who will embrace the beauty and possibilities of their future, we engage in two calendar events, whilst different, both are pivotal, symbolic and purposeful moments for us to come to attention: ANZAC Day on April 25, and Mother's Day,the second Sunday in May.
I want to begin with a story about a young person from a few decades ago who embodied much of what would seem like success, at a very early age. Fame, money, professional respect, material possessions. You might know of this person as Cat Stevens. He had a sensitive side that wrestled with the bigger questions in life through songs like Peace Train, Matthew and Son. Remarkable music. He recounts that on one occasion, he was swimming with a friend in Malibu and whilst reflecting on his success, he asks, “What does it really matter? What’s it all about?” This thought bubbles, and he pushes it away. He is then caught in a rip and he can no longer feel the sandy floor of the ocean as he is swept out. As he starts to think “this is over”, he, like many of us do, cried, “God help me, I’ll dedicate my life to you. Save me.” A wave comes, Cat calls it a friendly wave, and it carries him to shore. He returns to England and he looks to politics, he looks to the established church, and can’t find anything that enchants him. Nothing with the intensity to match the profound yearning he now had. Gradually he finds himself aligning with the Islamic community. The community pray five times a day, can see injustice in places like Palestine, they care about poverty, justice, learning, history, science knowledge and suddenly he is in a community and has a purpose. (Cat Stevens.com website)
Why did I tell this story? We have young people who have to, and will, ask the bigger and more profound questions in life, as we do, when we allow ourselves the space to challenge and be challenged by our thoughts, and judgements. The questions that embrace the spiritual yearnings we have. “Why do I exist?” and “What is my purpose?” What do we say to our young people when they ask? What is my purpose in life, and where is a narrative big enough for me to find my story? We all need one. There is a part in each of us that longs for meaning and community. Our ability to communicate this with each other is a part of the experience that separates us from other animals. I believe this is one of the key contributors to developing character, resilience and the human spirit.
Every human being that has ever lived, has done so because they were brought into this world by their mother. Mother's Day recognises this notion. It also recognises so much more. It recognises that we need to celebrate the strong, powerful and influential women in our lives. I don’t feel as though we celebrate the strength, the bravery, the courage of great mothers/women, anywhere near enough. Women who confront the challenges of bringing children into the world and raising them to be people of substance, in spite of, or in conflict with, other factors. I am who I am because of the strength of my mother. She worked hard to give me the education that led to the life I now have.
I love the existential and humanistic thinking of Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and Holocaust survivor. He writes, “It is amazing what we can put up with if there is a purpose in the pain. If there is no purpose in the pain, even the most smallest aggregations are unbearable.” (Verywellmind.com website).
What are we giving our “becoming adults” in 2021? What is worth dying for, and thus, also worth living for? Every generation needs to know why it exists.
Remembering the sacrifice, spirit and contribution of the ANZACs, along with all who serve and have served, reminds us that there are yearnings for purpose and community. Taking the time to acknowledge the constructs, the emotions, the preconceptions that our mothers confronted are some of the enduring symbols we have that give a lifeforce to the spine, and a sense of clarity to the eyes. We have the potential for an extraordinary life. Our challenge is to help our young people to be integrated and to be grounded to a sense of self that is based on substance.
Over the last 100 years, our IQ as a population has increased, held in tension with our knowledge that anxiety, depression, insecure attachment, consumer-related disorders, body dysmorphia and others are challenging the fabric of society and leading to unhealthy and unhelpful behaviours that challenge positive energy.
Let’s build hope and give our young people substance to their sense of self. The question “Who am I?” has three sub questions: “What am I really like? What am I worth? What can I do?”. What drives the answers we find to this, is founded in the human spirit and formed through family, community, hobbies and education. Let’s create the space for our young people to be, and to be fulfilled.
We remember that those who serve and have served, do so and did so to create the space for you and me today, to raise future generations that will make the world a better and more peaceful place.
We also wish a beautiful, special and amazing day for our Mothers, whose strength inspires and empowers greatness.
Deputy Principal, Head of Junior School