This timely message from Manhattan Country School parent Justin Leites (Lev ’20) arrived in my email inbox this week.
Yesterday I visited a school in a poor and remote rural community in northwest India, along the edges of the Rajasthan Desert. I was surprised and quite moved to see the attached posted on a student bulletin board. So taking this opportunity to once again express my deepest gratitude for all that you and the MCS community are doing to shine this sort of light at a time when the world so badly needs it.
These are sobering times—violence, exclusion, bigotry and bias dominate the news. That news can leave me in a quandary some days, though eventually it strengthens my resolve.
Postcards From MCS
Standing on the sidewalk in the midst of the morning rush into MCS, I’ve grown accustomed to the buoyant energy of a school founded during the Civil Rights Movement that has consciously appropriated the principle embodied in the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. Climbing the stairs as classes rehearse Winter Assembly songs in four-part harmony, I know I am looking forward to the all-school gathering (which includes alumni) next Wednesday. Listening to the eighth-graders deliberate the theme of their MLK March one morning, and finalize their choice for an activism project another, it is powerful to witness their individual voices and ability to work together. These days, I am especially aware that their abhorrence of hate and bias in any form and great pleasure in one another’s company is nothing we should take for granted.
On the wall of the room where I often meet with visitors there is a Ben Shahn lithograph of Gandhi. It is a stunningly simple image of a man whose wisdom was an inspiration for King. Only occasionally do I remember to read the handwritten text that fills the rest of the frame. “There has never been a just one, never an honorable one—on the part of the instigator of the war. I can see a million years ahead, and this rule will never change in so many as half a dozen instances.”
bell hooks is a writer who challenged everything I considered the norm as a college student. An interview with her was published in The New York Times yesterday. One of her comments reminded me of something I used to hear MCS Founder Gus Trowbridge say served as his guide in contentious times. hooks said, “Rather than saying, ‘What would Jesus do?’ I always think, ‘What does Martin Luther King want me to do today?’ Then I decide what Martin Luther King wants me to do today is to go out into the world and in every way that I can, small and large, build a beloved community.”
Notes from across the world, what children sing and say and articles buried in the back pages of the newspaper all help us appreciate what has and continues to inspire the MCS community.