Austin Trinity

An independent K-8 Episcopal day school five miles from the heart of Austin

Teach How To Love The Community Around You For All Its Diversity
Posted 02/27/2017 07:52AM

A parent of a Trinity first grader sent me a photo of her son. He is holding a handmade cardboard heart, perfect in its imperfections, filled with many colors and the words “Ubuntu Choose Love.” So simple, yet powerful. We are a community that, above all else, chooses love.

Ubuntu is a South African philosophy meaning “I am, because we are.” It speaks to our interconnectedness. As Desmond Tutu exclaimed, “We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected, and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”

Inspired by this philosophy, each January, Trinity students, faculty and staff make a renewed commitment to focus on the human spirit and the elements of peace, love, diversity, justice, equity, kindness, and community. Homilies in chapel, lessons in classrooms, and displays in our gallery emphasize these elements.

Those displays were framed by two questions posed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi who asked, “If not now, then when? If not you, then who?” and highlighted service to our neighbors. We posted photos representing acts of kindness and service, including a student giving her toys to a neighbor raising foster children; a student, in lieu of gifts, raising research money for a rare disease her classmate is battling; and a student starting a nonprofit to collect safety helmets to prevent head injuries for children in Cozumel. We continue to be blown away by how active our community is, especially our students, in service to home, school, the greater Austin area and the world. We hope these acts will create a ripple effect, inspiring others to listen, be empathetic, love and serve.

The spirit of Ubuntu at Trinity doesn’t end in January; we live it every day. We seek wisdom from different voices, and respect the dignity of every human being. We are reminded daily in chapel to love others as God loves us. And to do so, we must truly see and understand one another.

Each year, groups of parents and faculty and staff participate in the Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED) project, a peer-led program that trains us to listen and realize each of us has more than one story. We celebrate our differences, discussing them openly and honestly, and lean into the discomfort of difficult conversations.

The adults at Trinity model these values for our students. In the classroom, we approach problem solving in the same way, by teaching our students to look, listen and question before identifying a need. We encourage them to brainstorm, build on their ideas and go back to the drawing board if they haven’t quite solved the problem. We teach our students to recognize issues in their communities and find solutions.

On an unseasonably warm day in early February, I went for a walk and reflected on all the ways we choose love at Trinity. I gravitated to our outdoor chapel, a sanctuary for me, located on the edge of the greenbelt. I sat for a moment; I closed my eyes. I heard the water babbling and the sounds of nature, and I felt it — an overwhelming and almost tangible sense of love and community. I felt a sense of peace knowing we arm our students with the most powerful tools to choose love.

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