A Powerful Message of Community

Kevin Powers
As we all know and as we have heard already this morning from Mr. Burner, Mr. Stambach, Mr. Plumb, and Ms. Balicki, Friday was a difficult, upsetting, and even traumatic day for our school community. As has been said, we responded well and we should all be really proud of that. Shoutout to my advisory, though, who, just like everyone else, quickly locked down and followed the rules. But who also, after some time passed and it became clear that the threat was fake, began having low-decibel conversations about really, really needing to use the restroom!
Still, Friday was a difficult day. And now here we all are, gathered bright and early on Monday morning to start a new week of school. How should we go about this? What do each of us need? What should we say? How should we act? How should we enter into community with the people around us?
I’m no expert. That is Ms. Balicki and the good people Ms. Balicki has brought here from Crisis Services. But a lot of my time here at school is spent working alongside so many of you in our community service work. I also spend a lot of time in Community & Self class with all of our 9th grade friends. Those questions I just mentioned – What should I say and do? How should I act? How can I be myself but also be a good community member? – are the questions that we constantly circle around. So, I figured I would try to offer a few reflections that might help at least some of us to move forward.
The first thing I would like to share is that Friday is likely to be difficult and upsetting in similar ways for everyone in our community. We all deserve to feel safe – and to actually be safe – at school. That safety was compromised on Friday morning in a very abrupt and troubling way. Way back in September, all of the then-new 9th graders in Community & Self filled out “hopes and fears” cards. I went back through and read those cards this weekend. I am sure that everyone in this room can remember being brand-new to high school, and we can all relate. People wrote about being worried about grades, making new friends, keeping up with homework, dealing with their anxiety, eating lunch, not living up to expectations, making the varsity team, and on and on. Not one person wrote about being afraid of something like Friday. Not one. Now, fair enough, that’s probably because lockdowns and threats of violence seem like really dark things to bring up on the first day of school. But I would bet that it’s also because most of us want to believe that things like this won’t happen to us. This is a safe place, but Friday morning punctured that sense of safety for a time. Most of us in this room experienced that together. It is OK to acknowledge that.
But look around at everyone here. And now think of all the members of our community who are beyond this room. I think it is important to reflect that Friday is also going to affect everyone in very different ways. In fact, there are probably as many ways to experience Friday’s threat of violence as there are people in our community. Each of you and all of the students in the Middle School are going to process this event differently based on things like how old you are or even who you were with during the lockdown. The experiences of your family members are shaped by the fact that they learned about this on their phones but weren’t here to be with you. The adults in this room work hard to keep you safe and we are affected differently. We take your safety incredibly seriously. We also take our safety incredibly seriously. There are a lot of parents in this room. I know I was thinking of my own kids. We also have parents whose children attend school here. And we have kids – little kids – whose parents work here. Finally, depending on who we are and on our lived experiences, things like guns and the sudden appearance of police are going to affect each of us differently, too. Again, there are as many ways to be affected by Friday’s events as there are people in our community.
So, all of that is really complicated. But as odd as this may sound, simply embracing how complicated this all is can offer a path forward. Accept the complexity.
Everything I just shared means that our individual reactions and what each of us need going forward are going to be different. And that is OK. Everyone in our community will process things differently. And that is OK. Some people may need to talk; others won’t need to say much at all. And that is OK. Some people might be really upset. And that is OK. Other folks might not be affected as much and will be ready to move on. And that is OK. These are all normal responses.
If you need to talk things over, please seek out trusted people, including your advisors, teachers, family, Ms. Balicki, and the experts we have here today.
But if you are feeling ok, just please be mindful that being a good community member means making choices that don’t make the path harder for other people. That is true all of the time. It is especially true right now. Think about what you are saying to other people and think carefully about what you are sharing on social media. Be slow to speak. Listen attentively and without judgement. Don’t belittle someone else's feelings. Be kind.
Many of you have heard me share a Jesuit teaching that reminds us that, among many other things, each of us is an event that happens in the lives of the other people we encounter each day. We are all individuals. But, like a gust of wind, we are all also events that happen to the people around us. Each and every moment, we all get to choose what kind of event – what kind of person – we will be in the lives of the people around us. A moment like the one we are experiencing now is the perfect time for each of us to choose to be the kind of people that we all say that we intend to be for one another.
On Friday morning, we didn’t have much choice. The lockdown call came in and then it became an event that happened to us.
Today, the call is coming from inside the house. We all get to answer it by choosing to be a positive and restorative event for the other people in this room.
I wish us all a peaceful week here at school.

Kevin Powers
Co-Director of Service and Social Justice

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