As we approach this most unusual Thanksgiving holiday, with all that we have faced in the past nine months, both individually and collectively, I’d like to reflect briefly on goodness, in its abundance in all things and under all circumstances. Its presence in our lives, in the people around us, indeed within each of us, is reason for thankfulness and hope.
In Quaker faith and practice, goodness is lifted up as our essential nature as human beings, as our essential fulfillment of who we are. One of the great books on Quaker education is called “Growing into Goodness,” centered on the idea that Friends education is not only about growing into capability, but growing into the awareness of goodness in the world and goodness in ourselves.
The idea of goodness in spiritual traditions goes back to the earliest scriptures. In the book of Genesis, in the tale of creation, the phrase “and God saw that it was good” is repeated over and over in the six days of creation. Goodness is at the heart of our beings, it is the seed of ourselves.
What I see over and over in my life is that relationships, friendships and marriages that are the most transformative and generative are those where people see the light of goodness in each other and reflect that best version of oneself back to the other. I saw this beautifully in the marriage of my mother and father. My mother would so often say, watching my dad playing with a grandchild or even just mowing the lawn, “Isn’t he good?”. And indeed my dad is a very good man, I believe all the more so because my mother saw that so clearly in him and inspired the best in him. May each one of us be blessed by a friendship or relationship that sees and inspires our own goodness.
And so at this Thanksgiving time, when we are called to reflect on our gratitude, I’d encourage you to reflect on the goodness in the world around you, in the people in your life, in yourself.
Reflect on the nature of goodness. Goodness is always generative, creative, inclusive and hopeful. It encourages us to imagine what may be possible in the world. It is generous, open and always open to growth and new understanding.
Goodness does not deny or look away from the suffering and pain of the world around us, or look away from systems of inequity, injustice or oppression. It does not remove us from a world of poverty and violence, but it does represent our most promising response to the world. At this time of heightened need for so many, let our Thanksgiving invite each of our families to think about how to put goodness into action in thinking of others in ways small or large, to make a difference in the life of someone in need.
I am grateful everyday for the goodness we aspire to in the AFS community. Thank you to so many of you who are my inspiration to seek and bring goodness more fully into the world.
With appreciation and gratitude,
Head of School, Abington Friends School