A Response to the Moment: All the Stars We Can’t See

The Meadows School Campus

I want to begin by apologizing for what might seem like the lateness of this response to the events that have transpired over the past weeks. I have found the past month to be incredibly disorienting, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. In the midst of a global pandemic that has taken the lives of over 370,000 with over 100,000 in the U.S. alone, we have now been confronted with the senseless and violent deaths of both Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. With the massive protests in major American cities, we have seen our lives upended yet further than we already had as a result of social distancing measures.

And as I said, I have been disoriented. What’s more, I’ve been paralyzed by sadness and frustration with a lack of leadership among many of our elected officials when I feel we need it most. I have felt the need to respond, and I have not known how. Then, on Friday evening, I had the opportunity to join a Zoom call with a number of fellow heads of schools around the country. It was a social call, an opportunity to commiserate and compare notes regarding planning for the coming school year. The topic turned to the death of George Floyd and the protests that were already taking place in Minnesota, and I mentioned that it had been a major topic over our dinner table and that I had spoken with my older son about his privilege and his resulting responsibility to do right by others, for as our school’s core value of “Community” states, “a great education carries with it a responsibility to one’s self, family, and community.” I stressed to him that different people have different struggles and trials, that it will be his lifelong responsibility to use his education and his background in the service of others, and that societies—including our own—ought to be measured by how well they address the injustices done to their most vulnerable members.

Two of the heads of school in the Zoom call were African American, and each expressed their appreciation that I had had that conversation with my son. I was stunned and humbled. Each of these school leaders are the parents of their own sons in large cities. Each of them have worried for their families in the face of systemic discrimination. And they appreciated the minutes I took to reinforce to my son what is right and what is wrong. I felt I had done so little, and they thanked me for what little I had done.

After that call, I took our dog to the back yard for the last time before bed. I looked up at the stars, saw how few were visible because of the lights of the city, and I thought of the billions of stars I would never see, regardless of where I was standing when I looked up. I thought of the stars beyond the stars and about the comparative insignificance of our single tiny planet and the insignificance of a single dinnertime conversation with a single 10-year-old boy. I was sad.

I was sad because I know that the events unfolding over the course of the past months have not been insignificant. 40 million Americans have lost their jobs. More are losing their livelihoods even now, and some are fighting simply to stay alive. These are significant things. But what I found in that Zoom call Friday night is that sometimes the small things can be significant to others. Sometimes doing what you can is more important than doing everything that can be done. Sometimes all you can do is be one of the stars we cannot see, dimmed by the sheer size of the problems we face.

So while I understand that this email is yet another small thing, I want to encourage the members of our community to take heart in the small things and to do what can be done in the face of so large a task as healing our fractured country. Take heart in The Meadows School and our traditions, our efforts in teaching students the value of good citizenship. Take heart in our mission to inspire students to “passionately serve their communities, and to lead meaningful lives as citizens of an increasingly global society.” Take heart in our core values of “Community,” “Character,” and “Inclusion.” They will serve us as touchstones.

Take seriously our responsibility to raise a generation capable of helping to address what ails our nation and our world.

Take a moment to think about the fact that what we have in common is far more important than what divides us.

Take care of each other.

Jeremy Gregersen
Head of School

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