As a student and a bookworm, my favorite place on most any campus is the library. Even as a parent, my favorite volunteer activity is my allotted time in the high school library. Some of the sweetest, smartest and strongest people I know are librarians. I might like to be one when I grow up.
Libraries promote inspiration. Even without picking up a book or opening the pages, the sheer number of volumes, authors and subjects is humbling, and the overwhelming variety of voices, stories and styles motivates and encourages budding authors. Libraries also provide a haven for subversive activity. And I don’t just mean the kind of activity that can be shushed by a glare through spectacles. I mean the revolutionary kind where young people encounter new ideas, access cutting edge research, and cultivate an understanding of other people. Ideally, it is a place where children can learn to think for themselves.
I engage in my own brand of counterculture activities on my library shift: I smile at stinky, surly teenagers. Sometimes I pray for them. Yes, in the public school. I gave a presentation to the students at the public school last year, and the principal advised me, “You know you can’t say, um… the F word here,” by which he meant Faith. So I don’t say it out loud.
But I can walk it.
I have made it a practice to pray around the public schools. Every week I walk the dog along a route which literally encircles both the public and the private high schools (and mentally extends across the country to include my college-aged sons, their friends and my friends in education). According to John O’Donohue, “Wherever one person takes another into the care of their heart, they have the power to bless.” So, today, on the traditional start date for the academic term, I walk around the schools with gratitude for the faculty, staff, students and parents investing in the education of children. I take them into the care of my heart, and I offer a blessing as this school year begins:
May divine wisdom and mutual respect guide all those who contribute to the academic life — teachers, students, parents, counselors, administrators, staff, volunteers, directors, coaches, facility managers, coordinators, groundskeepers, crossing guards and security personnel.
May the school community flourish within a spirit of patience, appreciation and progress.
May the individuality of each student be honored and nurtured.
May light, inspiration and understanding guide conversation, in the classroom, on the field, in the hallways and at the lunch table. And on the phone.
May integrity and initiative motivate each student to apply his talents and her gifts in creative, relevant ways.
May parents, step-parents, foster parents and guardians delight in their child’s success and honor each child’s uniqueness and wholeness.
May those students approaching the end of their tenure complete their programs with stamina and honesty. May they enjoy their achievements and use their capacity in the service of life.
May each kindergartener and college freshman and all those transitioning to a new school gain confidence in their new surroundings while maintaining connection to the love, support and faith that brought them to this threshold.
May the lessons of responsibility, initiative, diligence and flexibility be celebrated.
May mistakes be understood as guideposts for improvement and not as examples of failure. May there be perspective, discernment and harmony.
May the reluctant student find purpose, momentum and joy.
May all students be inspired by possibility, challenge and laughter.
May student leaders structure innovative, effective, inclusive programs.
May faculty and administrators be beacons of calm, generosity and compassion. May they discipline with firmness and gentleness.
May all who contribute to campus life — from preschooler to professor — learn to speak each other’s language.
May the broken-hearted find connection and wholeness, befriending life through art, athletics, literature, challenge, a kind word from a classmate or colleague, or a smile from a volunteer librarian.
May all who participate in education experience rest, safety, unity and hope.
Obviously, it’s a long walk.
The principal of the local public high school will remain blissfully ignorant that I pray on and around his campus several times a week, primarily because his internet security system has blocked my SushiTuesdays website. I presume this is because of the “shit” in the middle. Ironically, the faculty and administration at the boys’ catholic high school, as well as several clergy friends who subscribe to my blog, let the Su-shit fly. Go figure.
May the invisible, vibrant grace bless us all.
Wishing you light and strength on your educational path. And a quiet, comfortable spot in the library.