Excerpted speech to the Tabor Community in Chapel
By John H. Quirk, Head of School
It is the season of thanks, of course. A good thing, though a funny concept – that there should be a season to focus on something we know matters deeply to people all the time – that they know we appreciate them; that we appreciate what they do, the contributions they make, the relief they perhaps offer. Thornton Wilder said that we are most fully alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious and appreciative of our treasures. I agree with him, that our hearts are fullest and most satisfied when we are most aware of what we are grateful for. So why then wait for the calendar to be at our most demonstrably thankful, when we can give and express our thanks liberally all the year around – and then, as Wilder suggests, have our hearts be more routinely full? A good question for this day and always.
Though we all know we exist in a time and place of abundance, most of us struggle with the human tendency to take our good fortune, our over-flowing cups, for granted. But I think we are also a pretty expressive community where thanks are concerned. We hear it in applause here or at games or at performances, in thank you’s leaving class or in the dining room, or in announcements freely offered at school meeting or elsewhere. We are a “shout-out” place, and that’s an important thing. It tells us we respect each other, that we admire each other, that we’re pulling for one another to succeed and to be happy and fulfilled in our accomplishments.
But I think we under-estimate how important it is to us, as the conveyors of our gratitude, to offer thanks freely and sincerely. When we do so it demonstrates that we are paying attention to people, not just what they are doing -- their good works -- but how they are doing them – their good characters, their hearts. And if we can truly see into that, we must then be people of empathy, of compassion and of understanding. There is no better way to build the skill of empathy than to use one of the easiest tools available– the full expression of our own thanks.
I, like you, have many things for which I am grateful: My family, my friends, my career, my health, and my Tabor life; things that make me thankful, and which I might not talk about often enough; a list of items I appreciate and want to say thank you for – so that I can, in Wilder’s words, leave with my heart more full this morning than it was when I awoke.
But as much as I love and am grateful for the energy and enthusiasm of campus going full throttle, I am very thankful for the time we're about to have off. I know I need time to think and to reflect. To step back a little bit from what I'm doing to think more about why I'm doing it, and for whom. I’ll spend time with family, and catch up with friends. I’ll try to be sure to let them know I appreciate them…as I hope you’ll do with those you appreciate. During the very well-earned break to come, I hope we’ll all find ourselves MOST alive in our awareness of our treasures, as Wilder said, and more willing than ever to say the things that we could not possibly say enough, whatever the time of year. Things like: I appreciate you. You matter to me. I’m glad you are here. You are doing well. I’m happy we’re together. I’ll miss you. I love you. Thank you.
Have a great Thanksgiving!