Next Tuesday, our entire community of students, faculty and staff will gather for our annual Thanksgiving Assembly. Though I have not experienced one before, I understand that various classes and student groups will share some of their work that relates to gratitude and the season. I am sure it will be heartwarming and uplifting in a way that only a totally child-centered performance can be, and a wonderful way to ring in the Thanksgiving break.
I will also address the gathering. I have spent much of my week, like so many others, absorbing the tragic and shocking news of the passing of our beloved former Upper School Head Tim Delehaunty. I wonder how I will muster the right tone for this assembly after such a heavy-hearted week. Where can one find gratitude in such a tragedy? While I have been mulling this over, I have been observing, listening, discussing and experiencing everyone grieve, remember and celebrate Tim. Faculty members have sent me tributes they have written of Tim. One person dug up a blog Tim used to keep on “mid-major” college basketball, and both students and faculty reached out wanting to create a memorial. I have also seen people supporting one another, hugging, telling stories, finding opportunity for laughter and helping one another. As I wrote to one faculty member Wednesday evening, in the incredible grief and shock and sadness of this news, I feel a gift – a gift of getting to know Tim, though I never met him, and a gift of seeing and feeling and knowing the many ways he touched people.
So, when I stand before the assembly of adults and children on Tuesday, I will likely be feeling many things. Fortunately, Country School is a place that recognizes and allows for a full range of emotions. If I am not fully in the yellow quadrant of my own mood meter, so to speak, that will be OK. It is important for children to see that adults, too, have a myriad of emotions. And yet, I will be able to express genuine gratitude in the face of this very hard week – gratitude for the deep strength and connection evident in this community in both times of joy and in hard times. My family and I have certainly felt it this fall as the community has welcomed us here, and I have felt it this week as we all struggle to come to terms with the news of Tim’s passing. The Country School community is a gift that I know Tim valued deeply, and I will recognize it in his honor on Tuesday.