Today we celebrate Arbor Day at AFS, a day in which we reflect on and celebrate the power and beauty of the natural world and our responsibility as stewards to ensure it’s thriving now and for generations ahead of us.
It is no coincidence that this celebration takes place as the natural world magnificently reawakens after the darkness of winter. With longer days and spring rains, the earth bursts into new life, teaching us, again, of its resilience and unstoppable capacity for rebirth and renewal.
The strength, power and resilience that we see so beautifully revealed in nature and the seasons is also deeply embedded in each one of us in the realm of the spirit, “that of God” that Quakers refer to, the inner light. Quakers believe that we all carry within us a connection to the transcendent which provides an endless capacity to love, to heal and to do good in the world.
Days like this remind us to pause and pay reverence to the abundance and goodness that always surrounds us and which provides direction and sturdy footing for us in a world that also is filled with tremendous suffering, inequity and injustice. The presence and power of this goodness allows us to open ourselves to hope. And it provides us the strength and faith to engage, respond and join the work that the spirit calls and prepares us to do in creating a more just, equitable and peaceful world.
The verdicts in the Derek Chauvin case this week offer a seedling of hope, long overdue and only a small step, but evidence of the possibility of accountability in the face of racist violence and carelessness with precious human life. Think of what it took for this to take place. A worldwide, sustained protest, raising consciousness about the need for accountability, reverence for life, justice and equity; the fabric of that movement is diverse, committed and driven by true moral power. It took undeniable documentation of the crime by caring bystanders who told their gut-wrenching accounts in court. It took a skilled prosecution team, and ethical law enforcement leaders and colleagues willing to testify with clarity and decisiveness. In short, it took far too much to prove what was plainly, cruelly and unjustly true. One conviction itself does not change the world we live in, but this one success breaks open a pathway that can lead to real change.
And so these thoughts are with me in a week of consequential news that ends with Arbor Day reflections. We are both beneficiaries and stewards of a natural world that far transcends us. And we are the active hands of the spirit of goodness at the foundation of creation and of each one of us. We are each called to play a part in dismantling the racism and oppression that do incalculable harm, in a wide range of roles that each of us is called to find for ourselves. Will you be an activist, a truth teller, a prophetic voice? Will you be an artist, poet, musician who finds new ways to illuminate the truth? Will you be a caregiver, a thoughtful neighbor, a good friend to those who suffer?
An AFS education aspires to help children understand the world that they live in, in all of its beauty and tragedy, and find their place in doing the good work of justice and peacemaking. I see this in the curriculum, the books we read, the plays we perform, the art on the walls. I see it in experiential learning programs like Farm Ex and Med Ex. I see it in sustained engagement with issues of identity, privilege and power in Conscious Communities. I see it in the profound student leadership of the Black Student Union and AWARE. And I am inspired over and over again by the strength of voice and moral clarity I see in students who aspire to be partners with us as adults in re-envisioning and repairing the world that they and their children will inhabit.
Let this week, in our observance of Arbor Day and in our witness of new hope in the quest for racial justice, inspire us to see the good work to be done, be mindful of the need to examine our own accountability, and engage ever more effectively in its service.