As many of you already know, this fall has been truly difficult for the Acton-Boxborough community. The two losses we experienced last month were followed by another teen death by suicide last week. My friends and I are filled with disbelief, shock, fear and grief. The student body mourns the loss of yet another friend and classmate. The teachers and administration have a much larger task at hand…not only do they have to manage and cope with their own emotions, they have to figure out the best way to try to move forward as a collective whole.
Except, the ‘whole’ will never be the same. The loss of life permeates every single thing and hangs over us like a dense, heavy fog.
I am filled with despair over the senselessness of it all. My brain screams that something needs to be done, and I struggle to come up with ideas.
The questions are many: What? How? When? Who? I wish I had answers that were easy, but sadly, I am at a loss.
In the absence of solutions, I offer this suggestion: It’s time to try something new.
From where I exist on the periphery of the school community, I have witnessed actions and interactions that have left me wincing with pain. The landscape is altered, and with this comes an inevitable scramble to make sense of what’s happening and to exert some control in the attempt to regain equilibrium. Social media is overflowing once again with strongly worded pieces. While I admire the strength displayed in open dialogue about these individual experiences, I am disheartened by how quickly some people have turned against the community, the school, the teachers and the administration.
Where is the benefit of the doubt? Now, more than ever, we need to give everyone around us the space to process this situation however each of us needs to process it. Being able to give someone the benefit of the doubt requires withholding judgment. Withholding judgment requires being able to accept something that may or may not make sense. The reason why it is so critical that we all operate this way is because we need to find our common ground again. We need to reconnect and rebuild our community in the spirit of acceptance and understanding instead of judgment and blame.
This begins with each of us. Every single member of our community needs to dig deep and be our best self right now. We need to hold off from judging others and focus instead on learning a new way to function, to interact and to move forward.
I will leave you with this story to help set a new tone for the rest of this week:
My son is on the high school soccer team, and this past Sunday night was the banquet for the soccer program. The banquet was filled with usual chatter…coaches proud of their teams, parents videotaping speeches and presentations, players standing somewhat awkwardly in an uneven line, looking out at the sea of faces as their coach talks about the season. What stood out for me on this night was not what the coaches said, but what one senior boy said to the boy’s head coach, David Baumritter. To paraphrase, this was the player’s message to the coach: “Not only did you make us better players, you made us better people. You set the tone for the team and led by example. You complimented us on how hard we worked, and what we all know is that as hard as we worked, you always worked harder.”
I have never been more inspired than I was at that banquet, listening to these words. The maturity of the player to be able to acknowledge all that the coach has done not just for the team, but for each boy personally. The reality of the impact of teamwork, both on and off the field, between players and coaches. In the center of all of it is the absolute proof of what can be accomplished within a supportive environment that exists in the foundation of trust, acceptance and mutual respect. This is my goal for our school and our community, and I hope that each of you will think about this story as you make your way through each day.
Just imagine the possibilities…