As the year winds down, my thoughts turn introspective. Thanksgiving prompted a deep reflection on the things I hold dear – family, health, abundance, meaningful work, a special community, and a sense of purpose.
The reflections continue as our community immerses itself in the cherished traditions of the winter holiday season. The older I get, the more quickly these traditions seem to come around again. And yet, the traditions themselves never grow old. If anything, I find them more meaningful the faster they seem to come back around.
This week, we enjoyed Brewster’s annual tree lighting. I’ve always enjoyed this event, but I found this year’s gathering particularly joyful. On Tuesday night at 9pm, students took a break from study hall and gathered in front of the Academic Building in large numbers. Seniors dressed in holiday clothing and costumes and led us in festive songs. Impromptu snowball fights broke out, and after the lights were turned on, we came together to enjoy delicious gingerbread cookies and hot chocolate. Inside the warmth of Esta, the singing continued, along with smiles, laughs, and connections. It was simple. It was beautiful. It was a moment of Unity.
I was joined by my daughter, JoJo and we happened to sit with one of our international students, Philipp. Knowing my daughter’s fascination with historic castles, I asked Philipp if he had any castles near his home in Germany. This opened up a fascinating story and history lesson about a storied king from his hometown. My daughter was riveted as she listened to Philipp’s account of the eccentric king and the beauty and special characteristics of his castle. I was riveted by the way a simple question opened up such a fun and memorable opportunity for learning and connection.
Moments like these are what boarding school is about. Learning happens all the time, in expected and unexpected ways. All we need to do is show up, be present, and engage with one another. Whoever we happen to sit next to can become our teacher.
There were over 400 students and adults in attendance that evening. Imagine how many other stories and connections we could share if we asked everyone to write a short blog about the Brewster tree lighting!
The world is complex right now. We face daunting challenges that will become the legacy of our students. I can’t help but reflect that beyond the academic skills cultivated in our classrooms, it is crucial to recognize the opportunities Brewster and schools like it provide for human connections, the exchange of ideas, and the sharing of stories and traditions. These experiences will undoubtedly equip our students with a robust foundation for navigating the uncertainties of the future.
As we enter the holiday season, my wish is for everyone to embrace joyful traditions and forge meaningful connections.