Sarah Jackson by Mark Hamilton

Final word from Head Girl, Sarah Jackson

Final boarders’ chapel service for 2018 – sermon delivered by Head Girl, Sarah Jackson on Sunday 16 September

As some of you know, and now all of you will, next year I’m going to be a Gappie at Tihoi. That’s right, I’m sorry Year 9’s, but that's another year of putting up with me. But one day when I was in the gym and was asked what I’m doing next year, I told them of this plan and a certain Year 12 Sargood cross-fitter who lives in that gym piped up “Really? I thought you were going to be successful”

So this didn’t bother me too much, because, I mean look at the guy. I’m assuming most of you know who I’m talking about. But recently when I stumbled across this quote, it reminded me of that moment, and resonates strongly with me.

The quote reads, “The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage, willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it” - David W Orr

Success. Something that’s driven into us from a young age. Getting good grades, achieving great things in your sport, or being amazing on stage in cultural events. If you do this, we are told you can be happy with yourself. You should be proud of how hard you had to work to achieve it. We live in such a competitive world, that many people stop sports or other activities when they realise they will never be the best. A merit is just not good enough. The feeling of winning is superior to almost everything, and being the best at something is a common goal. And if the likelihood of losing, or even just not winning is high, it’s also likely we won’t even try. We need competition, like House competitions or awards to give us purpose. What’s the point of House football if it’s not for House points? What's the point in trying to do well in House singing when you’re in Sargood? Why try in benchmarks if you have no chance of getting first in class at the end of the year. Ask your resident Year 13 Williams cross-fitter, why he doesn’t see the point in finishing a workout if he’s losing to a girl. Competition is driving us, because we all want that feeling of success. Think about, no one competes so that the winner can feel good about beating them. No one tries out for the lead in the production so that whoever does get it feels even more proud of themselves because they were selected from a larger amount of people. We do it because we want to win. We want that part. We want to feel as though we have succeeded.

And being a Gappie at Tihoi is apparently not something a successful person would do. If I was going to be successful, I would be going off to study law or medicine or something right? I would be striving to be the best at something, to make myself well known or to make lots of money.

Personally, I don't think this sort of success should define us. If you google “the most successful people in the world”, most websites will immediately return with the most successful in business, i.e. the richest people in the world. What is it about having so much money they don't know what to do with it that appeals to us, or makes people “successful”? In the deathbed letter Steve Jobs wrote, he claimed that Non-stop pursuing of wealth will only turn a person into a twisted being, just like me.” And realistically who would know better than he himself?

Another time that this idea really hit home for me was Talia Namana’s funeral and memorial services. Talia hadn’t achieved anything skill wise that made her really stand out. She hadn’t been Dux, she hadn't been a NZ rower, or NZ netball player and she wasn't a performer. But she was so much more than that. Last week in chapel, Henry talked about legacy. And Talia’s legacy was one of kindness and love and happiness. Every person at those services remembered her for her smile and her hugs and the way she always made time for anyone. The way she stood up for herself, didn’t back down and always brought people up instead of tearing them down. This is the kind of legacy I believe everyone should wish to leave.

And what did Jesus achieve? Nothing, except teaching people to be kind and to love each other. He used his strengths and wisdom for good, to help others, not to prove he was the best at anything. In the Bible we hear nothing of how he may or may not have been an academic, an athlete, culturally talented. But the bible speaks to no end of how he cared for others. His reason for coming to earth was to teach these things. As you just heard in the bible reading, “If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” But somewhere along the line, we have forgotten these morals. Our idea of success has changed, our love of power has grown and our need to be the best has now often become the priority. Something the bestselling book in the world tries to remind us of, yet it is not something promoted on TV, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, so it has become irrelevant to so many of us.

We are so driven to succeed in the way most people view success that our disappointments and failures haunt us. I remember the disappointment of not making the top netball team in Year 8, more than the happiness when I did make the top team in Year 7. I remember the papers I’ve failed, but not the grades on the ones I passed or got excellence on. I think that's something we are too good at. Anything short of success lingers for a long time and can really affect our attitudes. It can also make us jealous and filled with hate - the opposite of what comes from being kind and having people be kind to you.

I think we are brought up with this culture of needing to be successful. Not just doing well enough to sustain our needs, but doing so much more, to ensure we are the best at whatever we do. Why? Why can we not try to be as kind as we can? Why can we not simply take what we need, make sure others have what they need and make others happy? For some people, competitiveness gives life purpose. This is okay. But I still believe the number one goal in life should be to be as good to others as possible.

We have so many awards to give out - sports caps, cultural Trinity College results, academic badges and ties. How often are people acknowledged for kindness? And think about how you would view it. If I called someone up here right now and gave them an award for being kind you’d probably laugh. You would scoff, you would think to yourself, “The poor kid, they must be terrible at everything else, so they give them something like that to make them feel better”. In this school I often think amongst some students that to be kind is considered to be weak. But to be the best in the school at a sport, to be in a top team, to be a lead in the production… that’s considered amazing.

My aim today was by no means to undermine the achievements of people. It was not to knock career choices. Simply to question our motives. Are you studying a particular course, or doing anything else so that your mum and dad are happy? Or so that you will make a lot of money? Or because it actually interests you and you feel you can use your skills to help others in this field. Is success in the form of sporting, academic, or cultural ability, or the ability to make money really what we need to be striving for before we strive to be kind? To be peacemakers and to love and appreciate people? Is competition really the only purpose of life? And has our love of power become more important than the power of love? I can’t make those decisions for you. I can only ask you to consider it. Perhaps our ideas of success are different. But personally, my quest to be happy and to be kind, to help others where I can, to love my neighbour and play my small part in keeping peace in the world is much more important than the size of the house I can afford, the number of trophies my name is on or how good I am at anything else. At the end of the day, we all have the same sized grave, but the way we live on in the hearts of others is up to us. And I believe this will be up to our kindness, not our, so called, success.