What does MLK Day mean to you? This was the question posed at the start of our community assembly today. Equality. Work yet to be done. Celebrating diversity. Love for our brothers and sisters. Perseverance. A fight worth fighting. Civil rights. As each person stood and shared a word or phrase, you could see a cracked door into their life as light shone on each individual’s story. For some of us, our story has long been openly read by those around us. For others of us, we've allowed our story to collect dust for years as we have clung tightly to our thoughts and emotions for fear of judgement. This year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration at Proctor provided connection through self-reflection; an invaluable exercise we must never limit to a singular day in mid-January stamped as a federal holiday.
One of the best parts of the Hays Speaking Contest comes right after the last speech has been given. Sitting in the back of the auditorium it unfolds like a fan around the seven participants who stand in the front of the room. Family, friends, and teachers make their way down to congratulate the students who have spoken their truth, and from the back the fan seems to open up slowly, pushing its way across the stage, and the truth of the night’s words rise up and swirl.
Today’s blue skies, warm sunshine, and clear pathways will soon give way to more than an inch of rain and unseasonably warm temperatures tomorrow and Friday. The weather patterns this winter have been changing at the same breakneck speed with which we navigate the Winter Term at Proctor. Sunrises, classes, assembly, afternoon programs, races, games, rehearsals, extra help sessions, study hall, college counseling meetings, sunsets blur into a life that is equal parts invigorating and exhausting. In order to set our eyes on the invigorating, and not solely on the exhausting, we must intentionally carve out time to press pause and connect with each other.
In the fall of 1968, Dick Bellefeuille arrived on campus with his wife, Helen, and his young family. Along with serving as the dorm parent in Mary Lowell Stone, Mr. Bellefeuille (as he was always known by students) taught Spanish and coached reserve football, skating club, and lacrosse. Over the next thirty-two years (1968-1999), he would expand his teaching role to the science and math departments and become Proctor’s first athletic trainer in the 1980s. Through these varied roles, his career impacted thousands of students’ lives and left an indelible mark on the Proctor community. On December 28, Dick passed away at home in Concord, New Hampshire under the care of hospice.
Forecasting the weather has always been a tricky endeavor. The early calls for Thursday’s storm were for wind, a little snow and cold weather backing in after the event, but nothing epic. Nothing like a winter hurricane. Nothing like Grayson’s bombogenesis of 24 hours. And there is something delicious in the unpredictability, something cleansing in the wildness of a storm.
The sun set over the west end of campus for the final time in 2017. As we reflect on 2017 and the frigid sub-zero temperatures that have held their grip on campus over the past week, we look forward to 2018 with hope for what is yet to come. Hope (for our students, for our community, for our environment, and for our world) is only as powerful as our actions, however. We must not only hope for change in 2018, but believe we each possess the ability to positively impact the world around us.
The past twelve months have reminded us, once again, of the power of a school community like Proctor. We have felt the purest of joy and deepest of sadness as we have, together, navigated the rollercoaster of life. As we prepare to usher in 2018 with open arms, we take a few minutes to look back at a few of the most powerful moments of 2017 via Instagram. Enjoy!
I wrote about the “small marvelous” last year at this time, wrote about the bell that sits in the bookcase in my office, the bell that was dug up on Proctor grounds by two self-proclaimed “dirt fisherman” Dave Elwell and Dana Newton, the bell that must have jostled off a harness a hundred years ago to sit quiet and silent in the dark for years before the metal detector pinged on it. But it rings again when I pick it off the shelf, the small metal clapper knocking against the nickel sidewalls to send out a warm, wholesome sound. A chuckling ringing, a smiling sound. I imagine it shaking out its winter melody, the sound of sure-footed joy, as a horse-drawn sleigh slips through snow-packed Andover streets. Not hard to conjure after this week’s snow.