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The Grace of Imperfection

Ann Mellow
May 11, 2009
Forget your perfect offering
Your bell is cracked
It still can ring
That is how the light gets in.

— Leonard Cohen

Sometimes it can feel as though school life is all about the “perfect offering.” How easy it is to become impatient and dissatisfied with anything less. I love these simple lyrics by Leonard Cohen. They remind me of our shared human condition and of a particular grace that comes with the wounds and imperfections of a life lived. Shall we grieve the “perfect” bell that was and remain silent, or embrace the bell that is and find new ways to ring?

As a head of school, I once wrote about the winter garden; about how each tree, shaped by so many seasons in the elements, revealed a powerful weather-beaten beauty that the delicately protected hot house plant could not match.

So it is with each of us, and with our parents, students, and schools. As we approach the end of the year and rightfully celebrate achievements with academic wards and sports banquets, commencements and “moving up” days, let us also find ways to embrace the imperfections and struggles, the wounds and trials that we may have borne this past year. For those of us in schools, summer has always been a time for play and reflection, a “perfect” time to ring our bells anew and turn our faces towards the light.


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