Mercy MEMO

March 2015

Wit's End . . . notes from the principal

What is a Mercy Girl? As a parent, reading this column, you have either first-hand experience in answering this question because one resides in your home (or did in earlier years) or second hand observational knowledge because you know of one. Either way, the list of characteristics would be long and varied. The list would also be gratifying. It is from this vantage point that I look today.

February 2015

Wit's End . . . notes from the principal

“Allow me.” What a nice phrase to hear. So often it precedes an offer of some generosity. Usually it accompanies a polite request that might need no other word because the circumstance precludes explanation: I can open that door for you. I can assist you with something cumbersome. I can take care of that detail. I can relieve you of a burden. It might be followed by an introduction, first and last name, if the person is a stranger to you, thus eliminating an awkward moment.

January 2015

Wit's End . . . notes from the principal

Choose one. OK, be honest. Did those two words cause you even a moment of anxiety? An immediate Uh,Uh. Don’t want to. Don’t make me. Was your first thought one of excitement? Hooray. Can’t wait. Even a fist pumping, Yes!

December 2014

Wit's End . . . Notes from the Principal

Tis the season. Oh, yes it is. Maybe, just maybe, in the last week or so, you have felt put upon. Maybe, just maybe, you have suffered a disappointment, a let-down. Very likely one or more people has stepped on your toes, at least figuratively if not literally. Yes, tis the season. And it is a season (not just an hour or even a day or a week) . . . of stressors and high expectations, of intended communications, and missed understandings. There is a great deal of good tidings and well wishes, but we seem to operate at such warp speed that we miss many of them. In the rush that consumes us quite easily, we give in to the exhaustion. We feel frantic and frazzled and just plain bothered by it all.

Well, take a moment. Sit down. Breathe. I hope when you are done reading this column, you will have had a momentary respite. The outcome is simple and quite easy - voice gratitude. When I am consciously grateful for something or someone, calm occurs. I cannot speak any word of appreciation without feeling, at least at that moment, calm. Each of you needs a bit of calm. How do I know? Tis the season. Enough said.

So let me begin by throwing a statistic at you, a number that will very likely do anything but soothe. Ready? The world’s population has reached seven billion people; that’s billion with a “b.” I bet that surprised at least a few of you. Such a number is nearly incomprehensible, so it is a significant challenge to try and make a connection between the state of one’s own life and the situation of other human beings. Yes, most of us know we have it good, but if you are like me, it is easy to lose sight of just how good.

November 2014

Wit's End . . . Notes from the Principal

Overconsumption. Easy to understand that reference when we are just days away from the celebration of Thanksgiving. Typically, this is a day where we plan, in advance, to overindulge at mealtime, voice guilt about such activity, and then allow the self-fulfilling prophecy to occur. We give ourselves permission to ignore all the signposts of this activity and quite successfully rationalize that “It’s only one day”. No real issue here.

October 2014

Wit's End . . . notes from the principal

Feeling blessed. Blessing another. Which of these phrases resonated with you immediately? Some form of the word ‘bless’ is uttered innumerable times each and every day. The word is used to request, to implore, to provide, to thank, to bestow. It frequently invokes God as an intercessor, but can also be a communication shared person to person, regardless of age.

Consider a most common usage. There is an expression in most languages that suggests a blessing of sorts as the reply to one who has sneezed. The phrase, “God bless you” or “Bless you” is often attributed to Pope Gregory the Great in the sixth century. The bubonic plague had reached Rome and the Pope requested prayers be offered immediately to anyone who sneezed, as sneezing was considered a first sign or symptom of the plague to come. Certainly, many years later as this phrase became customary, it continued as a wish for intercession and improved health, sneezing still rightfully associated with a possible cold or allergy. Over time, many other superstitions evolved as explanation, including that a sneeze expelled the soul, or opened the body to invasion by evil spirits, or even that it marked a moment when the heart actually stopped beating. None of these have merit. Nice to know, however, that in some cultures a sneeze is believed to be a signal of good fortune to come. Take your pick. Whatever you consider the response to mean, I gladly accept anytime a blessing is thrown my way.

September 2014

Wit's End . . . notes from the principal

Raising a Child. You have heard the phrase more than a few times and yet there is no universally accepted explanation of what it means, or what it includes. Presumably, the starting point is undebatable; the endeavor begins at the moment of birth. The end game is far more elusive. A quick response might be that the work concludes at age 18. Another would counter with 17, since Michigan defines that as legal age for the purposes of criminal law. Age 21 would get wide support, yet many children are not yet college graduates, so it depends again on criteria.

According to Wikipedia, “parenting” is defined as “the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. Parenting refers to the aspects of raising a child aside from the biological relationship.” The site further explains that “parenting doesn’t usually end when a child turns 18. Support can be needed in a child’s life well beyond the adolescent years and continues into middle and later adulthood. Parenting can be a lifelong process.”

June 2014

Wit's End . . . Notes from the Principal

This past week, the world lost a woman of substance. The voice of Maya Angelou was silenced when Ms. Angelou died at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was 86.

What a magnificent life and career she had. She was an actor, poet, essayist, director, and producer of many plays, movies, and television programs. She received an incredible 30 honorary doctoral degrees. A prolific writer her entire life, she might be most famous for a series of seven autobiographies, the first of which, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, brought her international acclaim when it was published in 1969. From the moment I read that work, I became a fan. It was a book I enjoyed teaching and discussing with my ninth grade students for more than 20 years.

Ms. Angelou was a champion of women, young women, and a theme throughout her work was the importance of finding one's voice. She was encouraging, positive, outspoken, but always hopeful that the best was ahead. And she was joyous! No better way to close the school year than to share a few of her words to inspire every class of students at Mercy.

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