I know there is strength
In the differences between us.
I know there is comfort
Where we overlap.
Those words are lingering in my mind and I can’t shake them. Shira and I made our annual pilgrimage last night, attending Ani Difranco’s concert on Bleeker Street (I know, I’m as shocked as you that I was south of 14th, let alone 72nd). I’ve been listening to Ani for twenty years and she never fails to grip me. Ani sang Overlap, with the refrain above, to close the show, and it pierced the audience. It pierced me.
Your children are…bizarre, impressive, quirky, surprising, beautiful.
As the school year has gotten underway, and the identity of each class community has begun to take shape, I marvel at the way your children’s differences brings strength to our community. And I marvel at the comfort in the overlap between all of us.
As I have learned over my years in this job, at times plodding and painstaking, the relationship between school and family is a tricky one. Your role as parent is to serve as an advocate for your child – making sure that his or her wants and needs (and yours) are tended to. My role as head of school is to serve as an advocate for your child’s inclusion in a variegated, messy community. Those two positions are not always mutually compatible.
And so when Ani sang the lines above, aside from the obvious political tone they take on today (though it is a relationship song, not a political song), my mind was brought back to you, to us, to the school community we are building together, brick by brick.
This community is successful when we embrace our student’s differences as strengths. Our children are loud and quiet; boisterous and docile. Our children are quick and cautious; witty and pensive. Our children are right-brain and left-brain; scientists and artists. Our children are mature and delayed; precocious and hindered. I could go on. You get the point. The different points of light in each classroom – the different ways in which each student sparkles – is where we find our strength.
And yet, there is deep comfort where we overlap. We want community, education, and Jewish values. Most of all, we want each other – to feel connected, to feel part of something, to embed our children’s lives with context and meaning. The overlap is what brings us together; and being together is what illuminates the differences.
My hope for our school community this year is that we can use the comfort of our overlap to access the strength of our differences. See each student in your child’s class for those differences. Embrace the ways in which your child’s classmates surprise you – witty or pensive, mature or delayed. This is the fabric of our community.
Have a happy Sukkot holiday,
I know there is strength