In many cultures, gatherings are sacred, like the garments worn at a celebratory event. It’s where people feel comfort, receive information, share messages, and pass on what is essential about why the group exists. At Proctor, we are a mix of people, groups, religions, races, creeds, and cultures. Often, we come together to share in the joy of each other’s gifts, whether in the classrooms, spaces of play, upon the stage, or because of common interest. We all share one essential thing, which is the love for our small village - our school - that knits us together on pristine land in the middle of New Hampshire.
We, also, live as an intergenerational village, intentionally so, with elders and wee ones and everyone in between. We communicate what’s important about our shared mission and purpose while trying to refine and sharpen the knowledge of who we are, what we are, and why we exist. Wherever Proctor is, we gather in this wide range of ages translating our commitment to this place.
Over the last two weeks, we have been gathering in small groups and large groups. The start of the school year is like that. In places near and far, in and around Andover, NH, and under tents put to the test by the remnants of Hurricane Ida, we have been sharing stories of adventures. Last year was the biggest adventure of all, and we will use it to guide us on this new phase of our travels. Like the hunter-gathers in their intentional groupings from whom we descended, we tell stories and express care and affection for each other upon our return. All ages and stages.
At last week’s all-employee meetings, we talked about our community as we launched our theme for the year: “To become the healthiest school possible by understanding, valuing, and connecting individuals to community with compassion, integrity, and growth." Our work valuing and connecting individuals to community began with time spent celebrating the years of service of our colleagues. Did you know that three of our colleagues have served for more than 40 years! How much do those people know and have seen of Proctor over the years?
As we spilled out of the Wilkins Meeting House, we lined up in a giant horseshoe by those years of service. From month one of Proctor service to year forty-one of dedication to this community, seeing the stretch of humanity was inspiring and grounding for me, and I suspect for others as well. I am learning lots as one of the handful of new faculty/staff members on campus. For us, everything is fresh and different, from buildings, to rules, to bike rides, to babies. There is a never-ending gaggle of the novel-newness to interpret and to wonder over as we try to explain and to categorize. That’s a good thing. Being in an intentional intergenerational community means that people have to come up with new words for the new concepts and the new ways of being. It’s like using that traffic app Waze as it re-routes you to the familiar, recentering you on your journey “home”.
As we add students to our community today for Early Orientation, just as we did at two welcome events outside of Boston earlier this week and at the Day Student Picnic the other evening, I reflect on how my journey might be woven into this fabric. How might my own single thread be used to help strengthen the boundaries of our intergenerational garment of people, purpose, and place. What I suspect is that my thread will blend into OUR stories, knitting together, like a well worn cloak that makes us all feel good when we wear it and wear it and wear it.
May it always be so!
Curated Listening and Reading
This week’s blog makes me think of one of the guiding lights of poetry in the United States, Gwendolyn Brooks who lived not far from my brother and me on Chicago’s far southside. Brooks knew a thing or two about intergenerational stories. Her poetry was always about elevating the humble folk in our midst. In “The Bean Eaters,” Gwen Brooks does just that. Read: HERE. Listen HERE.