Every morning, I walk out of the front door of my house, look across the street as the sun begins to shine on the Holderness School campus, and think to myself, “I get to do this!”
Corny, I admit. But it’s entirely true. This brief moment of reflection with the campus stretched out in front of me has become as much a part of my morning ritual as walking my dog.
There is great power in the “I get to” mindset. It’s a mental framework centered around gratitude and being present. It doesn’t mean that everything will be perfect… just that, on the whole, getting to walk across that street is a blessing. And a chance that I don’t want to miss. Applied more broadly, when we look at all the things we “get” to do instead of what we “have” to do, we flip the script on whatever we might be dreading or procrastinating and learn to appreciate the opportunity instead.
I was fortunate to learn about gratitude from a young age. Like most things, it was most easily understood by watching others. My favorite teachers, coaches, and mentors constantly seemed to tap into gratitude in both word and action. One of them introduced me to my favorite phrase, a saying I mentioned to our students at our first Assembly of the school year: “I drink from a well I did not dig.”
I've learned that this is a meaningful saying to the Holderness community as well, which is fitting because the whole passage speaks of the promised land.
Houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant… (Deuteronomy 6:11)
What a perfect passage to describe this moment as a new Head of School. Gratitude seems a natural theme around this time of the year, as our community heads to Thanksgiving Break. Saying and giving thanks is undoubtedly essential, and I have an awful lot for which to be thankful. I am thankful for our students and employees, and for the families who trust us with their children. I’m thankful for the generations of Holderness folks who came before us, laying the groundwork for this life-changing school and community. But what I like best about the phrase is that it is rooted in action. What I’ve come to see is that more than simply thanking people, gratitude is really about recognizing we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us, that we drink from wells we did not dig and sit in the shade of trees we did not plant, that we are forever bound together in community.
The community we build defines us. It has a deep meaning that can create a legacy that will endure for generations. We get to drink from those wells that other dug, and we get to dig wells for others. When we step back from the rapid pace of everyday life on campus and take a moment to reflect, we are so lucky we get to do this.
Just like those trees that we did not plant, all growth requires balance. I hope the entire Holderness community has a wonderful Thanksgiving, feeling grateful that we get to be a part of this special place, that we get to see our family and friends, and we get to relax and recharge our batteries.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Break!