While we were away from school during Spring Break, a number of tragedies once again rained down on innocent people in their houses of worship. The bombings in Sri Lanka and the shooting in a Southern California synagogue are yet two more examples of religious intolerance turned to abject religious hatred resulting in lost lives. Upon return, we gathered as an administrative team to ask, “What can we do besides write letters of support to our community?” In our missives, we have stressed the support, care, and commitment we have for all members of our community, but what more can we do? In truth, we are tired of writing another letter, and we feel that a more sustained school response is needed.
Spurred by the action of Tamisha Williams, the Dean of Adult Equity and Inclusion at LWHS, we have begun recording ways we can be in solidarity with those who are experiencing any type of religious oppression and/or those who are simply trying to sort through the reverberations of these recent and ongoing incidents of religious violence. Written on the portable whiteboard in the lobby are the beginnings of ways we stand in solidarity with others. One person offers to attend worship with someone who wants company, another offers to have lunch with anyone who wants to talk; I added that I am interested in learning more about our students’ spiritualities and how they express their beliefs.
As the administration talked about what we can do, we consistently came back to the importance of relationships as the central underpinning of community, and how through the building of relationships we weave a fabric for understanding other people and having them feel valued. This idea of weaving a society is not new, but it has recently become more visible as we seek ways to bind a divided country. In David Brooks’ Op Ed piece in The New York Times titled “A Nation of Weavers: The Social Renaissance is Happening from the Ground Up,” he cites examples of people from across the country who are making the forming of connections and relationships their daily job. As an anecdote to social isolationism, which often leads to depression, anxiety, maybe even suicide or violence, The Aspen Institute and Mr. Brooks has begun a project called Weave: The Social Fabric Project. The premise appears rather simple, but basically it is: know thy neighbor, love thy neighbor, nurture thy neighbor.
For communities large and small, the impact and prioritization of inclusion may very well be the difference between a future life marked by loving relationships, or one that ends in tragedy. You will see this concept of weaving as a prominent focus of our emerging strategic plan, including the teaching of leaders who weave people together to form community, or what we are calling “weavership.”
At LWHS, our individual response may vary, but I ask and challenge our community to commit to one basic behavior: if we see someone alone at an event, or at lunch, or at a meeting, we ask the person if they would join you, or if you can join them, as a step to building a relationship and building a stronger community.
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A private school with public purpose, Lick-Wilmerding High School develops the head, heart, and hands of highly motivated students from all walks of life, inspiring them to become lifelong learners who contribute to the world with confidence and compassion.