Greetings from New Orleans! It is good to be back in the country, and at St. Martin's. Our trip to China and Hong Kong was exciting! Our adventures were fruitful and inspiring. A world of opportunity is out there for our students and our school. Next year we will add a few "home-stay" students to our Upper School. In addition, we look forward to a summer program in which teachers and students will visit from our partner school in Hangzhou, and to online curricular exchanges between our classes and theirs. We anticipate teacher exchanges and student exchanges in the future. These will be available to all of our students in Middle and Upper School, and not just those learning Mandarin. As a result, our students in all divisions will broaden their global perspective and gain in their understanding of different cultures. We will continue to emphasize the learning of a modern spoken language as an element of readiness for our students to meet the demands of the future. It is an exciting time at St. Martin's as we continue to build skills in our students which will prepare them to excel in college and in life.
On another note, I have been thinking a lot about an adage I grew up with which has served me extremely well throughout my life. My mother had many personal philosophies to impart to us that I have always hung on to. If my sisters, or I, found ourselves in an adversarial relationship, she would advise us to "Lovingly leave them alone." She is a true believer in "Early to bed and early to rise..." and would awaken us at the crack of dawn on weekdays and weekends alike, with a song. Ugh! We were not "allowed" to be bored. She firmly believes that boredom indicates a lack of creativity. When looking for a parking place she advises that "The place you seek is seeking you, and the spot you need needs you." We all have some fun with that one. She also states "You can't think anything but thought." Admittedly, I am still working to unlock the mystery in that statement. I have never really figured it out.
But the philosophy I hang on to the hardest, and which I carry with me on a daily basis, is "Your thought determines your experience." She taught us that we have choices in every situation we come across in our lives, whether the opportunities we encounter are positive or negative; easy or difficult; familiar or foreign; pleasant or unpleasant. Every situation offers us the opportunity to demonstrate good. Our mother raised us to believe that how we mentally approach every aspect of our lives plays an important role in determining the outcome. And over the years I have come to understand that prayerful thought, supported by an expectancy of good, is a powerful life tool.
Margaret Thatcher also follows this adage. She advises, "Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. What we think, we become." I would add that our experience is influenced by what we think.
Buddha said it this way: "What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: Our life is the creation of our mind."
I love Shakespeare's message, "There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so." How we see life, and how we approach it, results in our positive or negative experiences. My take away from this is that life is an endless opportunity to experience good.
Gandhi ventured, "A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks he becomes." Are we watching our thoughts, knowing that they directly impact our identity?
It is critical to our mental well-being, and to our experience, that we take every opportunity to recognize that good surrounds us, and to take the positive path in all that we encounter. By doing so, we find opportunity in adversity and strength where we might otherwise be tempted to give up. As teachers of our youth, parents and faculty alike, it is so important that we model this type of thinking.
I hung on hard to this mental tool on our journey to and through China and Hong Kong. There were endless opportunities to prove its usefulness. The journey was long in both directions, and for nearly two weeks we followed a demanding schedule from the moment we rose until late at night. At times we might have four appointments in a single day, taking cars, planes or trains to reach our destination. We never knew what we might be invited to eat or drink next. And, without Jennifer at our side, we could not communicate outside of our little circle. Often when we stepped out of a car or van we were met with cameras snapping and film footage rolling. We made on-the-spot speeches that were interpreted for us, and we answered questions hoping that our responses would be compatible with the values and expectations of those inquiring. We hiked up an endless number of stairs, and up and down mountains. We needed to be alert, and adapt to cultural norms in a variety of situations. Our trip was both physically and mentally challenging. In essence, we were ambassadors for St. Martin's and worked diligently to conduct ourselves graciously and thoughtfully.
There was, at every turn, an opportunity to recognize that "our thought would determine our experience." We often had mental decisions to make: whether to succumb to weariness or to soldier on, whether to steel ourselves to try unrecognizable food set in front of us, and simply how to move gracefully and graciously within a foreign culture. I am pleased to report that every aspect of our trip was productive and harmonious. I was so proud of my three colleagues who adapted seamlessly to every situation. And all of our needs were met along the way. We were great traveling companions. And the result is that we are opening new vistas which will in turn help to unlock the world for our St. Martin's community. Our thought did indeed determine our experience! We expected good and it resulted in endless blessings.
It is good to be home. Happy Monday!
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