“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….”

Those famous opening lines of Charles Dickens’ novel, A Tale of Two Cities. The novel begins with, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…”

This resonates for me as we begin another school year. We are now in a shiny new facility while still under the shadow of an ongoing pandemic and political unrest. How appropriate, again in our time, are Dickens’ lines that follow the first phrases! We are all so convicted of a point of view or ideology: wisdom and foolishness; belief and incredulity.

It is difficult to say, “Welcome to the new school year!” without just a little sarcasm slipping in. After a summer of construction, staff and students came back to school excited to use new learning spaces on our middle and secondary school campus. We are thrilled to move past cohorts and other restrictions we dealt with last year.

However, now we have the divisive issues of masks and vaccines, with folks in our own school community on all points of the debate.

Cookies and Prayers = Care

So many things can divide us. How appropriate then, that our school-wide theme this year is focusing on what unites us: love God, love others based on 1 John 3:16-18. Verse 18 reads, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth.” We are called to love each other, and this must be seen in our actions towards one another. We can disagree with each other, but we need to still demonstrate love to one another in our deeds.

I have already seen so many examples of people genuinely excited to be at school and truly living out the call to care. New students being warmly welcomed into classroom communities; a parent who no longer has children in the middle school sharing that their family prayed for me all summer; a new grade 6 student leaving a freshly baked cookie on my desk, just because. Honestly, cookies are great reminders of care!

Live Out Love

So, despite the differences we have within our school community with wearing a mask or getting a vaccine, above all this is a call to show love towards everyone. 1 John 3:16 states, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” This strong command is not only saying that we should care for others in our community, but we need to live out that call to care in our actions (remembering that what we say and how we speak to others is an action).

Recently a friend shared with me a quote helping clarify this call to love. “Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate. We cannot allow the things that have the potential to divide us overcome how we love and care for one another in community.

I hope and pray that in this new school year, each of us can really live out the command to love each other. Maybe we all need to share a few freshly baked cookies too!