One of the things I have been learning during these two months is the UWC mission, because I haven’t previously been in a UWC school, but I have been fascinated by the thoughts that people pin on the doors and walls of the school.
We’ve been here two months, we have got to know each other and now we need to look at how we are going to move onward. We need to look at ourselves, then to look wider; we all live together in a big society. We need to look at what inspires us. What inspires each of the students? What makes them get up in the morning? And will this also inspire their fellow students to enjoy their day?
It is so easy to look at good sayings and not to make them actually mean anything to us every day. So when we have something that inspires us, it really must be something meaningful, and something we can share.
What I asked them that afternoon was to break into their tutor groups; I asked them to come up with a saying, a phrase, a longer saying, a paragraph that was going to mean something to all of us every day as a community. Just to give an example, I recited a quote I read every morning, just because I personally find it very reassuring. It is a reflection by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a heroine of mine.
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
I was sure that all together they could find something that would help us live together in a true UWC spirit.
My next door neighbour is 99. Close to her 100th birthday I asked her what she wanted for her birthday. She replied that she didn’t need anything, but she wanted to plant a tree. Not even a tree, she wanted a tiny seed that had just flourished. I said: “But Clare, when we put it in your garden, you’re not likely to see it become a tree”. “No”, she replied, “but people coming after me, will.” I asked them all to start planting the seeds that will grow into the trees that will be the future of this school. The sort of school that people are going to come to and inherit the thoughts and the actions that our students will have put into it.
After fifteen minutes of energetically sharing thoughts and experiences, the students did not manage to produce a definitive statement. However, it was agreed that at least they had begun the process and by sharing ideas they had looked more closely at what it takes to live together.
Concluding this session, I shared with the community my favourite quote on living together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor, theologian and anti-Nazi activist:
"Live together in the forgiveness of your sins, for without it no human fellowship can survive. Don’t insist on your right, don’t blame each other, don’t judge or condemn each other, don’t find fault with each other, but take one another as you are. Forgive each other every day from the bottom of your heart”.