The relationship between the individual and those around him, between the inward and outward journeys, lies at the heart of our being.
In his early novel, Knulp, German author, Hermann Hesse weaves a tale which covers, in three episodes and frequent reflections, the life of Knulp, the ‘eternal vagabond’, as he wanders ‘aimlessly’ through villages, towns and into the lives of ‘ordinary’ families. As his life nears its end on the slopes of Wolf Mountain, Knulp enters a dialogue with God in which he questions the purpose of his life.
‘Look’, said God, ‘I wanted you the way you are and no different. You were a wanderer in my name and wherever you went you brought the settled folk a little homesickness for freedom. In my name, you did silly things and people scoffed at you; I myself was scoffed at in you and loved in you. You are my child and my brother and a part of me. There is nothing you have enjoyed and suffered that I have not enjoyed and suffered with you’.
The relationship between the individual and those around him, between the inward and outward journeys, lies at the heart of our being. It is in that instant of interaction we reveal, share and celebrate our God-given talents and uniqueness. Often such moments can pass by seemingly unnoticed, but then there are those times of a syzygy, when all aligns at the right time and something special occurs. Nelson Mandela dancing before his people on assuming the presidency of his country comes to mind, and the scene from the 1981 film Chariots of Fire (Colin Welland and Hugh Hudson) when the Scottish sprinter, Eric Liddle, is running the 1924, 400m Olympic final in Paris, and thinks out loud, ‘I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast, and when I run I feel his pleasure.’ And on a more personal note, when, aged 10, I arrived at my primary school to discover that ‘overnight’ our class had swelled by six, all refugees from Idi Amin’s Uganda. I initially kept my distance as they seemed so different: different language; different appearance; different ways of doing things. But as the weeks passed I realised that they wanted to have fun and maybe learn a bit along the way, just like those of us who had been there seemingly forever. I liked that some people did things differently and I liked the fact that there was more to learn. And in the moment of alignment I began to realise that the faults we see in others are generally faults in ourselves.
It is no easy task identifying and accepting the degree and nature of our own achievements, so perhaps it is of no great surprise that successive governments, driven by the best of ideals, struggle with the task across generations of boys and girls throughout their school years. Testing, grading and ranking deliver scales, but so much of value matures over time, its worth appreciated only after the fact, and often by others. We can count the qualifications accrued and teams represented over a Scotch career, but we don’t want our boys to be stepping out at the end of Year 12 with their best years already behind them, unaware of where the true treasures of their lives might lie. It would be good to have – and it is something to pursue – measures which track individual growth, providing a sense of how each person uses and nurtures his or her talents to the benefit of the groups and communities which dominate our social landscape: their role within a family; the time and energy given to those most in need. And then there are those ‘big tests’ which often come with short-term sacrifice, but bring long-term benefit for all. Tests of integrity, when we want Scotch boys to hold true to their beliefs whatever the force and direction of the prevailing tide of opinion. Such qualities don’t generally reap the rewards by which success is all too frequently measured, but they are our fundamental building blocks and the seeds must be sown and nurtured.
Memorial Hall, Remembrance Day Assembly, Wednesday 11 November 2009
In among the many achievements of Scotch boys lies a commitment to service which has its heart in the Assemblies and Chapel Services of the Memorial Hall and the Littlejohn Chapel. Here, with the sun streaming through stained-glass windows, led by our Chaplain, the Reverend Graham Bradbeer, the boys are challenged to question things of real value in a lifetime, those true measures of a life well lived and to embrace opportunities to contribute to individuals and communities in need. The Scriptures are read and put into modern context, entwining the roles played by Scotch boys past and present in confronting and addressing inequity throughout the world. We have heard the endeavours of three groups of boys heading to Cambodia, Fiji and, most recently, Thailand, to help build homes as part of the program run by Habitat for Humanity. In June, four boys attended the Global Leadership Convention run by World Vision and we are currently working with World Vision to further our involvement with the Kapumfi Community School project, which grew from the monies raised by the Scotch community between 2005 and 2007. Each Thursday, around 230 boys participate in our Social Services program which covers a spectrum of over 40 placements ranging from aged care centres to non-government organisations and op shops. Each Tuesday, half a dozen boys travel to Sunshine to assist with the tutoring of refugee students new to Australia and adjusting to a new language and a new culture. As of this year, boys have been directly involved in our Indigenous Program and in another initiative a group worked with the residents of Carrical House, scripting, practising and performing a play aimed at de-stigmatising mental illness.
Fundraising provides an immediate and effective means of making a contribution to those in need and forms an important arm of our commitment to service. Along with communities across Australia, the start of 2009 had the boys involved in a number of activities as part of the Bushfire Appeal in support of, among others, Middle Kinglake Public School, Alexandra Secondary College, Marysville and District Kindergarten, Yarck Emergency Fire Department and the Australian Red Cross. Our annual 24 Hour Hike sets boys the challenge of raising sponsorship for kilometres covered through the bush, and this year the blisters and sore muscles resulted in some $20,000 handed over to Oxfam. Barbecues and other house fundraising activities have supported the work of the Oaktree Foundation, Cancer Council Australia and the Australian Guide-Dog Association. Tree planting around our ovals raised monies for UNICEF. The Oaktree Foundation received further support from both the ‘Battle of the Bands’ with the girls of PLC and our inaugural ‘Dance-Off’ with Lauriston. Having located the razor in Mr Wheat’s office, our prefects ran ‘Shave for a Cure’ in support of the Leukaemia Foundation, and the boys up on the Hill took to knocking on doors as part of the Salvation Army’s Red Shield Appeal. As part of our Social Service program a donation was presented to Wheelchair SportsAustralia, and World Vision’s 40 Hour Famine again focused the thoughts of the school on those suffering from hunger and malnutrition. The contribution and sacrifice of servicemen and women was remembered and acknowledged through the sale of poppies and legacy badges.
It is not always easy for young people to drag their minds away from the immediacy and routine of their day-to-day lives and it is unfair to ask a young man to have empathy with the concerns of others if he hasn’t been exposed to the complexities of human thought and behaviour. Each involvement in activities such as those given above, sows a seed as to ‘what is’ and ‘what could be’. We are very fortunate to have a staff who, through talent and interest, not only create such opportunities, but encourage reflection and nurture the spiritual growth of the boys.
Lines, routines and systems are required to create some sort of order in our lives, but perhaps many of the real rewards lie in the gaps between the lines: friendship, compassion, tolerance, integrity, humour, in fact all qualities which stem from human interaction. We want Scotch boys to grow as individuals and to share their talents as fully engaged members of their families and communities, at home and abroad, so that, like Hesse’s Knulp, they come to see that all is connected. GS
Scotch College: ABN 86 852 826 445 ACN 005 650 395 CRICOS 00624A (Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students)