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Headmaster Mr Grant Lander
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Headmaster's pen

Headmaster Grant Lander —

It is a period when we are grappling with a huge range of emotions; a certain amount of fear and trepidation about what the future holds for us, our families, our livelihood, and our country

I write this article as we move towards the end of March 2020. It is a period when we are grappling with a huge range of emotions; a certain amount of fear and trepidation about what the future holds for us, our families, our livelihood, and our country; where there is a high degree of uncertainty over the self-discipline that will operate in a self-centred world in response to the requirements of this Civil Defence Emergency; when we aren’t really sure if we will be able to “flatten the curve” and so enable our medical services to manage the needs of the sick, who they tell us will soon be moving in big numbers to hospital beds.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” The danger lies in refusing to face the fear, in not daring to come to grips with it. If you fail anywhere along the line, it will take away your confidence. You must make yourself succeed every time. You must do the thing that you think you cannot do.”

But as well as fear, there is an equally important f… word – that is FAITH. As humans, we often search and grasp for what is eternal and lasting, looking for something that provides real meaning and purpose in our life. The reality is that there are few things in our life that will endure.

Woody Allen once said, “If only God would give me a clear sign of his presence – like making a large deposit in my bank account.” The reality is that such indications are few and far between, but belonging and looking for meaning in tough times often persists – hence our instinctive need for prayer to get through our most difficult challenges. For many, that need for prayer remains dormant until a time of crisis. These people are often referred to as “Foxhole Christians”. A reference to the fact that soldiers taking cover in foxholes, when under enemy fire, tended to resort to prayer to retain their sanity. There is the joke that there aren’t many atheists in foxholes.

Foxholes for many of us tend to be times of crisis – such as when:

  • our mother or father is sick
  • there are troubles at home
  • things get tough for ourselves
  • we are worrying about the welfare of someone close to us.
  • we, ourselves, are struggling to find solutions or answers to a problem.

Faith helps anchor us. It gives us a level of meaning to a situation. It provides us with reassurance. But faith also helps give us a level of optimism about a situation – “Things will get better … we will get through this …” The challenge of social media platforms and “the news”, be it in a digital or screen format, is that at critical times, they can fuel anxiety and challenge your faith that things will improve.

We have all heard the old story about the thirsty person who casts their eye over a partly filled glass of water. The optimist in them tells them how lucky they are that there is a half glass of water and the pessimist in them, tells them how unfortunate the glass is half empty. From a personal perspective, give me the optimist any day. In many respects, I believe that both optimism and pessimism are self-fueling and become in themselves self-fulfilling prophecies.

At this point in time, in our lives, we need to have both faith and optimism. How we approach the challenges of Coronavirus is going to make a huge difference to the way our young people are going to manage this event both now and in the future. It is vital that we surround them with positivity (ie no one ever got blind from looking at the bright side of life), and that we endeavour to provide them with a structure in their lives, while they are spending so much time at home with us. It is highly likely the period of time in isolation will be much longer than the initial four-weeks as indicated by the Prime Minister. Structure isn’t unrestricted screen time. It is “chunking” the day up into a routine which involves getting outside, having daily exercise slots, assisting with the preparation of evening meals, maybe even turning the TV off at night and having family board games or card test matches which replicate an Olympic Games in your living room.

We often talk about having “guts and resilience”. This is definitely the time for us to show it as parents and caregivers. Resilience is defined as a person’s capacity to adapt in the face of adversity or tough times. If Coronavirus doesn’t fit this definition, then what does? The tough times for many won’t just last until the peak of the current pandemic. For many, it will have a financial or emotional legacy for quite a while in the future. But with faith and optimism, we can all get through this.

To this end, I leave the final word to one of our grittiest New Zealanders, Sir Edmund Hillary, “If the going is tough and the pressure is on; if reserves of strength have been drained and the summit still not in sight, the quality to seek in a person is neither great strength nor quickness of hand, but rather a resolute mind, firmly set on its purpose, that refuses to let the body slacken or rest.”

May the wisdom of God uphold us in the time of trial.
The light of God encircle us and give a sense of comfort and confidence.
And the peace of God rest upon us so that we can possess optimism and faith.

With kind regards

Grant Lander