Tell the Story and Break the Bread

The “busy-ness” of the year always ratchets up too quickly. It seems that just yesterday we were sharing summer stories and wondering aloud about the year ahead. By the end of September, however, the hard work has come fast upon us.

It is a truism that schools are busy places. Words like “over-scheduled,” “over-worked,” and “over-programmed” are scattered through school conversations with frequency, and with good reason.

When we are busy, it is only natural to hunker down and narrow our vision: my school, my schedule, my chapel or classroom, my students. The hours in the day, month, or year are parsed into a litany of to-do lists. For school heads, perhaps it is enrollment or the capital campaign, finances or what I used to call the “fuss du jour.” For teachers, it is the myriad duties of the day, the planning, their students, and their students’ parents. For all, it is an ever-increasing set of expectations for individual and collective performance.

How do we keep the urgent from displacing the important? How do we remain grounded and centered—perhaps what our students need us most to be—and focused on “what really matters?”

I recently heard a school chaplain reflect on simple and powerful advice he was given as a newly ordained priest. He was told that, in the end, he really only had three tasks:

  • To tell the story
  • To break the bread
  • To keep the home fire burning

How do we tell our story in our schools? Not a story laced with statistics or the school placement lists, the designs for the new building or the deficit budget—but people’s stories, in all of their humanity, stories that remind us what we are doing and why we are doing it.

How can our schools and our classrooms be places that truly feed people—bodies, minds, hearts, and souls? Sometimes, like that safety announcement in airplanes, we need to feed our own minds, hearts, and souls before we can do the same for others, be they students, peers, parents, or our own loved ones.

How do we keep the home fire burning, that flame that keeps out the cold and illuminates the darkness around us? How do we feed the flames of inspiration and creativity? How do we keep a passion alive so that our work and the lives of our students are imbued with meaning and purpose?

As our schedules fill up and the daily busy-ness” of school life comes round once more, I wonder: how we can do these three things?