It seems like everyone is offering their editorial views regarding recent events in the news, but all these opinions only seem to create more questions and few satisfying answers. Between the school shooting in Parkland and much closer to home threats made to multiple schools in Southern York County, PA, the foundations of our world appear to be crumbling and unraveling at a rapid pace. Typically we seem to prefer to feel angry rather than to allow ourselves to grieve and to experience the overwhelming sadness triggered by these tragic events. I found myself seeking the discipline to process all these events while sitting in the sorrow and sadness (rather than being caught up in the whirlwind of anger). On the Sunday morning following these events, I found myself in church singing a famous hymn, God of Grace and God of Glory, written by Harry Emerson Fosdick. It was the third verse that really got to me.
Cure your children’s warring madness;
bend our pride to your control;
shame our wanton, selfish gladness,
rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
lest we miss your kingdom’s goal,
lest we miss your kingdom’s goal.
We are meaning driven creatures. We are always seeking to make sense of the world around us. We create our conclusions, theories, and hypotheses just to make our world more understandable and hopefully more predictable. So what happens when the events facing us far exceed our capacity to achieve some understanding? As I was singing the hymn, the lyrics began to offer me some increased sense of clarity. Doesn’t all evil fall into one of the categories of being rooted in madness, pride, and poverty of the soul? If our human condition can be traced to this fundamental brokenness within us, what then is our responsibility in the face of tragedy? What shall our response be? Perhaps this hymn offers a few ideas. Curing our children’s (and our own) warring madness. Humbling our pride. Leaving our selfishness behind. Abandoning our temporary material riches in the pursuit of the transcendent treasures of the soul. What if, as a community, we took action to cure warring madness within the confines of our homes, our school, and our community? As I was examining our own response to the warring madness, I realized that here at SJA we already have been making our contribution to curing the madness by teaching values. Instead of nostalgically mourning the erosion of values and the decline of the human condition, we endeavor every day to implant within our students’ positive fundamentals of character through “Values on the Manor,” during morning announcements. The values of integrity, respect, reciprocity, generosity, gratitude, empathy, perseverance, humility, responsibility, acceptance, loyalty and kindness are daily reminders of our responsibility to the world as global citizens with local impact. Every morning students are reminded to move away from being rich in things and poor in the soul to cultivating the inner attitude that in return will transform the school culture and the world that lies beyond.