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The Beauty of a Goodbye

Just the other day as I walked past the drinking fountain, I was stopped with a very important question from a 2nd grader: “Is your baby girl going to go to school at St. Catherine, Mr. Ward?” Followed quickly by, “I want my kids to go here, but I don’t know what to name them.” In reflection, I realized that somehow, just somehow, this interaction summarized most of my feelings about leaving St. Catherine at the end of this year: my sadness in saying goodbye, my feeling of uncertainty in the future, my super worry that this student won’t know what to name her future children(!), but most of all, my joy from all the years of listening to ponderings such as these from St. Catherine students.

Shortly after I struggled to answer this intriguing handful of questions from my 2nd-grade friend, I went into her classroom and began to teach about the new character trait of the month: courage. This time of the school year is often when students’ relationships are most strained, so I wanted to frame our lessons on courage differently. In order to develop courage, we need to focus on others. The logic is simple: if you think of others more, then you think of your fears less. If we are willing to dive into hardship with others, we have nothing to fear and a lot to hope for. I then started to think about the parallels of the Easter Triduum and a child’s relationship to hardship and courage. It always came back to the need for humility and relationship. For all of us, I guess being alive does mean being loved, doesn’t it?

As we focus on the character trait of courage this month with our students and as we end our Lenten journey, I wanted to use my goodbye as a simple way of expressing that we can do hard things better together. We can find courage in relationships, and show each other how to carry on through challenges without losing hope.

Newness requires courage, but without humility and connection, newness can overcome us and become sorrow, frustration, and despair. How poignant is it that we are diving into the Easter Triduum, where we begin to understand the meaning of suffering when we let go of pride and grasp onto humility? As we work on the virtue of courage and end this school year, I encourage you to not shield your child(ren) from the hardships of life. Allow them to struggle and be there to validate their struggle without having to fix it or take it away. If we know the story of Easter, we know that we would never want to rob our children of the immense joy that comes after we face our fears.

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