It is what difference we have made to the lives ofothers
that will determ ine the significance ofthe life we lead.”
As I write this message for the school magazine, I was reflecting about the significance of these words for each one of us who are connected with Fort Convent: the sisters of Jesus and Mary, the staff, students and parents. Each one of us needs to answer these questions. Have I made a difference to my students? To my colleagues? To the members of my family? And to society at large? Imparting education is a noble task but have I understood the meaning of education in my own life so that I can communicate that meaning to others especially within the school which I am connected?
Education is for the enlightenment of the soul and mind but when we look around and see, it gives the impression that it is a tool given to learn, to read and to write, and arithmetic and not an inspiration to enlighten a person to realize his/her mission on earth. It is said, “Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.” Through our teaching and learning process, students need to feel inspired and motivated to build up attitudes of critical thinking, desire to gain knowledge and to implement that knowledge in their day-to-day living.
We need to give meaning to our own lives and the lives of the young children who are entrusted in our care. Abraham Joshua Heschel says, “Life is not meaningful… unless it is serving an end beyond itself; unless it is of value to someone else.” But looking at the present scenario in the world one does not visibly perceive happenings of this process. Each one of us needs to ask ourselves, is it due to the limitations of the system? Or is it that as teachers and educators, we have not taken the right steps to implement right values and encourage our students?
The steps we need to take, to instill in our students are core values like:
- Reverence for all life – this virtue is as Jesus taught us love your neighbour as yourself. We need to teach our children to love and respect themselves and other beings, including the environment. When we revere all of life, the desire to interfere, dominate and control anyone does not exist. We don’t ask people to live according to our expectations which is what ego loves to do.
- Sincerity and Honesty – we need to teach children to speak honestly and live authentically. We need to be ourselves like God. But many times due to the expectations from parents and elders, we create a false self or ego in our students; this creates ambition, comparison and competition among ourselves. As William Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet: “God has given you one face, and you make yourself another.” When we create an image according to our ego, we lose the ability to be naturally sincere.
- Compassion and Forgiveness – to live a meaningful life, we need to practice values of gentleness, mercy, kindness and consideration of others. Our ego constantly exerts us to control others and there we need to guard ourselves. Can we see God’s presence in other human beings? When we see God’s spirit in other human beings, we feel a sense of unity. This feeling of connectedness goes in the direction of compassion and so we reach out to the world with gentleness, humility and kindness. We need to instill these values in our students and motivate them to practice in day-to-day living
- Supportiveness and Cooperation – God supports us in all our endeavours. Supportiveness manifests as service to others without any expectation of rewards which helps us to realize that life has a purpose. It is the surest way to learn how to think like God thinks. When we see ourselves as divine, expression of God’s love, we reciprocate the same to others as Albert Schweitzer points, “The one possible way of giving meaning to (man’s) existence is that of raising his natural relation to the world to a spiritual one.”
In the coming academic year and the next five years, we the Sisters of Jesus and Mary all over the world want to stress these values through our three priorities:
- Priority 1: Incarnating forgiveness, reconciliation and healing .
- Priority 2: To be moved and respond to the miseries of our times especially concerning children, youth and women who are exploited.
- Priority 3 : Being committed to justice, peace and integrity of creation. I am positive that each one of us can make a big difference and all of us together with the grace of God can make this world a better place!
I end with words describing the African Bushmen’s tale of two kinds of hunger and its relation to
meaning and purpose in our lives.
The Bushmen in the Kalahari Desert talk about two “hungers.”
There is the Great Hunger and there is the Little Hunger.
The Little Hunger wants food for the belly;
but the Great Hunger,
the greatest hunger of all, is the hunger for meaning
There’s ultimately only one thing that makes
human beings deeply and profoundly bitter,
and that is to have thrust upon them
a life without meaning
There is nothing wrong in searching for happiness
But of far more comfort to the soul
is something greater than happiness
or unhappiness, and that is meaning.
Because meaning transfigures all
Once what you are doing has for you meaning,
it is irrelevant whether you’re happy
or unhappy. You are content you are not alone
in your Spirit you belong.
(Sir Laurens van der Post from Hasten Slowly, a film by Mickey Lemle)
Thank you and God bless each one of you.
Sr. Arina R.J.M.