"Vulnerability" by Anna Hamilton
In this room, only a quarter of us were alive for the collapse of the Twin Towers - the event of 9/11. Yet, every one of us lives in a world which has been impacted by the 26 al-Qaeda terrorists. We all daily hear sweeping-racial statements, from elected political leaders, that single out a whole religion, for a select group of people’s misgivings. Most of us have had to go through strenuous airport security checks, where the threat of a terrorist attack is far more feared than it was 17 years ago. On my recent trip to New York, I was fortunate to visit Ground Zero - the base of the Twin Towers - where 2,606 people died in an instant. Being there, I didn’t think about the airport security checks or the racist behaviour towards Muslims. I thought about the thousands of families who weren’t able to tell their loved ones that they loved them. And I thought, that perhaps some of those victims, in the moments before they lost their lives, thought “have I led the life I wanted?” This day is a reminder of how we have no control over our future. We only have control over how true we are to ourselves.
What do you think defines you? What will be said about you once you leave this earth? How have you made an impact?
Over the weekend, I caught up with my old drama teacher. We started talking about what had happened in the past 18 months. And like anyone that talks to me, my usual conversation starter is about my marks. For all my time at St Paul's, I have never admitted to someone why I kept striving for those marks. Why I spent my weekends studying instead of going out or going home. What she knew - and what I came to realise - was that I thought: if I don't have my achievements, what do I have? What am I worth?
She asked me: “What do you think others most admire about you?” I said “My work ethic”. “No,” she replied “That’s way further down the list of what I admire - and what I think others admire - most about you. What I admire most about you is your consideration for others.” What does this say about me, and about you, if we have spent our lives thinking that others value us for our achievements, when in fact what they admire most about us is what we offer others?
Whether you believe in Jesus Christ, or any religious leader, what most people can agree on is that the bible is an insight to humankind. It paints accurate depictions of our downfalls, yet it also demonstrates the rewards of being true to who we are. To being open with the world, about what we stand for.
When I arrived home after that coffee date, I opened up the Good News Bible. I opened on John, chapter 2, about Jesus going to the temple. It talks about how Jesus kicked out the merchants and the animals who were taking away from his father’s house. The Jewish authorities asked him what he was doing in the temple. Jesus answered “destroy this temple, and in three days I will build it again.” “Are you going to build it again in three days?’ they asked him, “It has taken 46 years to build this temple.”
What this shows us is that it takes years to construct a fake persona. We have to have everyone believe that we are someone we are not. And in doing so, we often believe that. Yet all it takes is to bulldoze those walls and we can be open with who we are.
How does this relate to Maori language week? Well, the students - regardless of their backgrounds - who embrace Maori language and culture, are showing themselves and their peers what they truly stand for. In your courage, you are demonstrating the importance of being vulnerable. Being open with who you are. We, as a school community, have an opportunity to get behind Maori language week. To embrace the language. To show the world that we value our unique culture.
The students today that are receiving their service ties have allowed themselves to be vulnerable. They have taken away any false pretences and shown the world what they value. In doing so, not only have they been acknowledged for their service to the community, but more importantly, they have opened themselves up so that they can make an impact on others.
I challenge you today to be vulnerable. To bulldoze those false pretences you have created for yourself. To have a conversation with your mate, who you trust, about what scares you to even talk about. Because none of us are perfect. None of us are living a perfect life. And as soon as we all come to realise that, we can support each other. We can tell each other its okay. And we can build a community in which we value each other not for our achievements and past decisions, but for what we can offer the world.
This sermon entitled "Vulnerability" was given by Anna Hamilton on Tuesday 11 September