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Yesterday, I attended our weekly School Meeting with a representative from the Delaware Food Bank; she was on campus to be presented with a ceremonial check from St. Andrew’s students, who had raised funds throughout December for local residents living with food insecurity. As I sat there in Engelhard with this person, who had never been to the school before, I found myself having to explain so much of the humor and culture of St. Andrew’s to her.
This was the first School Meeting after a long holiday break, so we had the usual “Housemaster’s Inspection Awards” given by Co-Deans of Residential Life Mr. Rehrig and Ms. Duprey to the students who had the cleanest rooms and corridors on campus prior to the break. What always amazes me in these moments is how excited our students get about these inspections—how much they want to win in this simple “competition of cleanliness” (not least because of the promised prizes of Playa Bowls or pizza for the victors). When the one dorm champion, Moss, was announced, literal shrieks of joy went up from the Moss residents in the audience. I outlined to my guest exactly what was going on in that moment, and she looked at me as if to say, “Come on, Jay, are you going to tell me that a bunch of teenagers care that much about keeping their rooms clean?”
And suddenly, it dawned on me. It is exactly because of this level of care for the minute details of school life, that we as a community were able to be so successful in raising money ($5,000 on campus and another $2,000 online) to help those in our wider community who go to bed hungry every night. The work that we ask students to do to take care of each other and our spaces on this campus each day is directly connected to the work we hope students will do to care for and contribute to the broader world. There is a real joy in taking responsibility for yourself and the community in which you live—and we are called to spread that joy to others.
“Showing up” at St. Andrew’s means that we delight in the little triumphs of school life, like winning Housemasters’ Inspection, without losing sight of “the big picture”—like the fact that through collective effort, we can provide 21,000 meals for hungry folks in Delaware. And students’ awareness of all the potential energy bound up in this community just might start in the simple act of cleaning their dorm’s common room sink—even when they didn’t leave the dirty dishes in it!
My hope and prayer for all of us in 2023 is that we continue to teach, and live out the idea, that attending to the small details of everyday life allows us to be prepared to respond to the needs of the world around us in genuinely meaningful ways.
May God bless you and your families richly in the New Year.
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