Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Some Thoughts on the Season and the Winter Solstice...

A Holiday Message to BHBL Staff-

My father-in-law Fred- who lives with us- got up this morning and looked out the kitchen window into the grey December dawn. “Wow,” he said- “it’s already starting to get lighter a little earlier!” Now, it is only the first day past the winter solstice...but I guess Fred is a glass-half-full guy and I like that! I was still chuckling at the comment as I drove into work.

These are the darkest, shortest, days of the year… it is easy to get down when you look around, when you listen to the news… stories about violence, drugs, corruption, terrorism, depression... It’s easy to succumb to the bleakness of these short, dark days. 

As I pulled into Stevens parking lot, I saw the flag at half-mast. We were asked to lower it in honor of Sgt. Joseph Lemm, a resident of West Harrison, NY, who was killed in Afghanistan on Monday. A hero serving his country and dying far from home. Again, my thoughts turned toward toward the short, dark days of December.

Then I heard the sound of children gathered in the Stevens gym. They were joyful and excited, bubbling over with happiness. They began to sing carols and fun songs… songs about Christmas trees, Hanukkah candles, silver bells and golden rings. As I watched them sing- (and I mean sing! ...singing out with all their little hearts as if there was nothing in the whole world that mattered except this Holiday sing-a-long and all of the excitement it represented)- as I watched them sing, the purpose of the season once again became so clear to me. At a time when the days seem (literally) the darkest, we celebrate a season of light in the world. Hanukkah, Christmas, the New Year- all represent an understanding that light shines in a dark world. My days as a science teacher remind me that light takes away darkness. Darkness cannot take away light- In fact, darkness is nothing (literally) except the absence of light.

Light comes into our lives in multiple ways. For many of us, our faith is a source of connecting with goodness and light. Though different faiths may celebrate this season in different ways, our focus is similar- we recognize that light shines in a dark world and that light dispels darkness.

Light also comes to us through family and through friendships. As we gather for get-togethers, dinners, and parties, we celebrate the light that those closest to us bring into our worlds.

Light comes into our lives as we work to help others, as well. There is no better place to see that in action than in the classrooms and hallways of BH-BL. As Maryellen, Chris, and I walked through the district today it was so apparent that you are bringing light into the world as you work with our kids. The Stevens sing-a-long was duplicated with every bit as much enthusiasm in Pashley and Charlton Heights. In the middle and high school, kids were singing carols (in multiple languages) in the hallway, working on art projects, celebrating with friends in the lunchroom or in a class party, reading great books as a class, raising money for good causes, and even taking math tests!

Everywhere we went there were smiles on faces, a kind “hello”, doors held open, a sense of safety and contentment, and an atmosphere of respect. I could list 100 examples of ways that you are helping to bring light to the world as you work with our students. 

So, it is true... The days ARE indeed getting lighter and longer!

If you need a reminder, take a few minutes over break to watch the video that we showed at Opening Day entitled: The Burnt Hills Way. It is now posted on YouTube.

Have a great Holiday Season! Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year. Enjoy the blessings of family and friends. For a little while, try not to think about all of the incredibly important work you do for our students each day. Rest and relax. Everything will be there for us when we return on January 4! Happy Holidays and all the best for you and your families in 2016!