As the holidays are upon us I’ve been thinking about our work and the conditions we face both in our professional and personal lives. This very morning the news was full of reports from Berlin, Germany and a senseless attack that took the lives of many and injured scores more. As I have extended family in and around Berlin, it has been very personal to me. There were additional stories from other parts of the world this morning as well, and this year has been full of stories with similar refrains.
As I’ve thought about this, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Civil War poem (later put to music), “I heard the bells on Christmas Day,” has come to mind. I’d like to share these thoughts with you.
Longfellow looks out on his world and sees war and death, and deep divisions between former friends and even in families. Then he hears the “belfries of all Christendom” pealing a message of peace. He writes:
And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Then from somewhere inside of him, or perhaps from outside of him, a spirit of hope emerges and he continues:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, not doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
Without question we live in a world and in a time with considerable turmoil. Much more so than in 1864, modern media brings the images and sounds of turmoil into our homes and increasingly into the very palms of our hands. The images and sounds strongly send the message that hate is strong and that hate mocks the song of peace on earth and good will. However, drawing strength from either an internal or external source, my hope for each of us is that we can transcend despair and live our lives with hope and joy.
This past Sunday pipes froze and then burst at Pleasant Green Elementary. Almost immediately plumbing and cleanup crews responded and worked through the night to have school open and safe for kids Monday. Four classrooms were severely disrupted with damage to equipment and personal property. Last night I got an email from Sharon Prescott the principal, letting me know her gratitude for the people who responded and worked to secure, clean and prepare the school. She didn’t minimize the loss or the difficulty the affected teachers are experiencing, but she wanted to be sure that those who had gone above and beyond what might have been expected were recognized and thanked.
Those thanks have been extended, but I also want to thank Sharon and so many others of you, leaders every one regardless of title, who keep good will in your hearts and words despite conditions all around you. Your voices and good will strengthen me and, I suspect, each one of us with your positive outlook – not minimizing the challenges or difficulties, but choosing to see and call out positive things that are also all around us. Again, my sincere thanks to all of you.
In my home we celebrate Christmas, so from our home to yours, we wish you a Merry Christmas. Many of you celebrate differently than do we and I wish you the happiest of holidays during this time. Regardless of our celebrations, may we all take the opportunity to express love and appreciation to our family and friends, recognizing and thanking those who sacrifice on our behalf and in their own ways spread peace on earth and good will to men.
Thanks to all of you, for being with us and for all you do!