SIMPLY BREATHING IN, BREATHING OUT
Challenging and nurturing Mind, Body, and Spirit, we inspire boys and girls to lead lives of purpose, faith, and integrity.
Inspire is one of the words that by-passed me in our mission statement. Considering the fact that I am a priest and one of the chaplains of the school, I feel somewhat embarrassed in overlooking it. The word inspire in Hebrew is ruah, which is the same word for breath and spirit. Hence, we look to the second creation story of Genesis in which God breathes his spirit into Adam, and, as a result, Adam receives life. In Greek the word pneuma is the word for spirit. It also means wind and breath. The religious implications of the word inspire is breathtaking – no pun intended. We receive the breath of God and live. At the end of our lives, we commend our spirits back to God. In other words, what we have received at the initiation of life, we return at the termination of life.
The word inspire in our mission statement, especially as a church related school, implies that we are to take the spirit that God has given us and pass it on to others – both our colleagues, students, and parents. However, the gift of inspiration or having the spirit enter into us signifies that our lives come from God, and, therefore, our lives must dwell in God just as God dwells in us. It is important then to become aware of God’s presences within us and within others. In essence, it is having the image of God in me recognize the image of God in you. This awareness of self and others can lead us to a greater respect of all people – especially our students.
As a result, the best way we can challenge and nurture the mind, body, and spirit of young people is to direct our own spirit to embrace the needs of other as our own. We, ourselves, must live lives of purpose, faith, and integrity if we expect our students to follow suit. In essence, they breathe in the spirit, which we have already exhaled into our surroundings. The only way we can challenge our students is to challenge ourselves to acknowledge the spirit of God that is all around us. The best praise we can offer to God is to be mindful of his spirit that is in us and to direct our intentions to glorify that spirit by sharing his ruah and pnuema with our students by helping them to recognize his ruah and pnuema within themselves.
How can we do this? First, we can share ruah and pnuema with our students by giving them the respect they deserves as people who carry God’s spirit within them. Do we show them respect when they fail? Do we talk to them as people and not as second class citizens? Do we encourage them to set appropriate goals? Do we encourage them in their success and failures? Do we inspire them to do their personal best. Can they trust that we are doing our personal best? Second, we can hold fast to the faith of ruah and pnuema that it will allow us to challenge and nurture our students based on their needs and not based on our own needs for success. Third, we can practice self-control in thoughtfulness of the spirit that is around us. Helping our students to believe that there is something greater than ourselves and inspiring them to want to be part of it. Fourth, we can be honest about our own shortcomings and come to rely on the gifts of others and the righteousness of God to supplement our own limits so that we can, even in our limits, grow in mind, body, and spirit. Fifth, we can show kindness and courtesy to everyone we meet on our campus and beyond, practicing hospitality as a way of life and community. Sixth, we can be generous with our remarks, acts, and thoughts. We can practice the spirit of God by embracing the needs of our students as if they were our own. Yes, that may mean practicing the Golden Rule even when they, in our own estimation, may not deserve it. Seventh, we can show the gratitude for this God given spirit and mindfully worship God and give room to others to do the same, especially if they see God differently than we do. Eighth, we can have the courage to admit our mistakes and shortcomings, seek forgiveness and offer forgiveness, and realize that there is no such place as a mistake free-zone.
As a profession, education happens to be prescriptive in practice; nevertheless, we need to be more introspective. We often tell students and parents what they need to do in order to succeed. We also need to have the courage to say there are things we need to do in order for our students to succeed. We can have the courage to allow others to fall short of our expectations and allow them to use that experience as a springboard for development and growth. Finally, we can demonstrate sportsmanship in all aspects of our lives – not just in athletic contests. In closing, to inspire our students goes far beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic, it goes to the place God has set aside for us to be fully human, fully alive, simply breathing in and breathing out.