Monday, February 10, 2014
In my last impromptu Prayers moment with you, Ansley helped me to convey my hopes that SPSG will be a school where we want to do that which we should do. In keeping with this theme, I found my sticky concept and the idea for this talk. I want share a time in my life when what I should have done and what I wanted to do opposed each other.
Let’s go back in time. Thirty years ago when I was in seventh grade, Louisiana History was a required course at my school. One of the many gifts of having two older sisters was their help when I was studying. My middle sister, Allison, shared a mnemonic device as a way to learn the rivers in Louisiana. Despite my Pearl, Tchefuncte, Tangipahoa, Tickfaw, Amite, Mississippi, Red, Atchafalaya, Calcasieu, Sabine rap of sorts, the rest of the test material was not sticking in either my working or short-term memory. I had plenty of time to study; in fact, I was taking the test late with a group of peers. I am fuzzy on the details of why we were taking the test late, but think it may have been because of an away soccer or volleyball game on the day of the test and, thus, we took it in a later study hall. Feeling as if I did not do very well on the test, I finished up and asked Coach Fitz, the proctor, if I could head over to the faculty lounge, where Mrs. Chrstovitch, waited for us to deliver our completed exam.
It wasn’t a long walk from the study hall space to the faculty lounge. However, on the way, my best friend, urged me to stop so that she could use the restroom. We both took the opportunity to use the facilities. I imagine I put the test on the counter as I went into the stall. I came out to wash my hands and answers on my test and her test were being erased and multiple-choice options changed. I wanted to press rewind. I wanted to pause. I wanted a replay. I should have said, “Stop it. I don’t like what you are doing, it makes me feel dishonest and if you don’t I am going to get a teacher.“ However, I didn’t.
What followed seemed like the longest several hours of my young adolescent life. I lived four blocks from school and routinely walked home. However, on this day, those four blocks seemed like 40 miles. Once home, I finally released the tears and nauseous feelings, both of which had built up in my body from the time I walked out of the stall in the bathroom until I arrived home. My mother, who upon my arrival home was usually found standing and stirring a delicious meal in the kitchen, or reading on her bed, heard me. This time, she found me and decided that tomorrow, after sleeping on things, I would be brave enough to go into the principal’s office and do that which I wanted to do, should have done, yet did not do in the moment. Guilt began to melt away. I told my mother and father. Family dinner was centered on the conversation and I was prepared to deliver the narrative about my poor choices the following morning.
Unfortunately, fate twisted in a different direction. I was called into the principal’s office; the note on my green locker was waiting for me before the first bell. I was told that my best friend, whose mother worked at the school, went to the office the afternoon of the test and told the administration that I changed my answers and told her not to tell anyone. I began to cry. I explained my truth. I begged them to call my family and ask what I did the day before. Nothing worked. My punishment was set. Perhaps it would have been the same had I not been summoned and my best friend not shared the story as she chose to remember it. In that moment and in the moments afterward, I didn’t do what I wanted to do. I didn’t do what I should have done. However, upon getting home, to my safe turf, I did.
Now, almost 30 years later, I want my children to find their parents to be that safe turf. You have heard me ask you, “To whom do you feel you can go when you need an adult to guide you?” Find that person. Imagine going to that person. Tag that person and let them know they are that person to you. A mother, father, aunt, uncle, grandparent, coach, teacher, principal, advisor, counselor or staff member, these are all viable choices and knowing who they are will help you calibrate your moral compass.
I cheated. I let someone take and change my answers. I was a victim, bystander, and an active participant. It might seem small to you. I cheated in seventh grade. I lost my integrity and lost sight of my sense of self. It might seem huge to you. It might not make an impression on you. However, I still get a salty taste in my mouth. Adrenaline still runs through my body when I replay the long night waiting for the next morning to go in and tell my principal Ms. Horgan what happened. YUCK. That feeling was the best thing that I have ever been able to hold onto. I don’t want to feel that feeling again and, as a result, I tend to want to do what I should do.
Turn the times when you have not displayed healthy RISCs into opportunities, to learn and not replay the bad episodes in your current life. To further the glory of turning such small and unfortunate moments into learning lessons, I share with you that Mrs. Horgan, my former MS principal, interviewed me for a job decades later. Although I was waiting for her to remind me of this situation and was poised to share how this small moment was a turning point for me in many ways, she did not mention or perhaps even remember the scenario.
At St. Paul’s School for Girls, we are called to a community where the moral, spiritual, intellectual, artistic, and physical well being of you, each one of you, is our daily mission. Perhaps you have already had your moment of regret. Maybe you have not. Either way, when you have the moment of regret or you compromise your character, do not bury it. Instead, shine a moral flashlight on it and learn from it. Live in the present and learn from the past. Together we can continue to embrace the opportunity to want to do what we should do and to hold each other to our best.
Let us pray-
Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of memory and time. From the past and from the stories of others, we are able to set goals and learn from our mistakes. Continue to allow us to open our hearts as we forgive each other, ourselves, and recommit to our school’s mission: St. Paul's School for Girls educates the minds and hearts of girls in a supportive and intellectually challenging community that encourages respect, integrity, spiritual growth and creativity, preparing them as independent and confident young women to embrace the extraordinary opportunities of our complex world.