“All grown-ups were once children… but only a few of them remember it” ~The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
I was recently listening to a series of interviews with Joseph Campbell and his reflections on the essential themes that have emerged from sixty years of his life’s work. He emphasized the interconnectedness of our lives and the human experience, the fundamental role of storytelling in our culture, and the importance of courageously embarking on our individual journeys to fully realize our lives, as highlighted in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Campbell also shared a curious thought when he suggested that adults should read more children’s books to further our own learning and understanding. In fact, this seems to be sound advice, particularly as I recall a memorable and meaningful graduation speech that used a children’s book as its framework to convey a meaningful message.
A friend and colleague, Corey Watlington, was selected by the senior class to deliver the faculty commencement speech. While I am sorry that I do not recall all of the details of the speech, the messages conveyed through the use of a children’s book resonated with all of us. The book’s title is, The Three Questions, by Jon J. Muth, and, following Joseph Campbell’s advice and using Corey Watlington’s idea, the following is a brief summary and reflection associated with the book.
The book’s main character is a boy named Nikolai who is seeking answers to three questions: When is the best time to do things? Who is most important? What is the right thing to do? A cast of colourful characters, which include a monkey, heron, turtle, dog, and panda, all play important roles as Nikolai is forced to overcome several challenges due to a terrible storm. Through adversity, his own kindness, and the support and guidance of his friends, Nikolai finds answers to his three questions: “…there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important person is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side.”
This is indeed good advice and a reminder, not only for adults but also for our students and those responsible for our educational programs, of the importance of being present and kind. With so many distractions, technologies, and the seemingly ever-accelerating pace of life, this can be a challenge. Still, we owe it to ourselves and those around us to make this a priority. For this reason and many others, I am grateful for the opportunity to work and live in Brazil as the Brazilians have much to teach us about living in the present, enjoying the moment, and appreciating the people in our lives. As a Canadian with a disposition that can, at times, bend slightly towards a future orientated focus, the answers to Nikolai’s questions are always a welcome reminder.
International schools generally embrace a strong emphasis on a holistic educational approach, which includes the well-being and health of our students and communities. To that end, Nikolai’s learning extends to our educational programs and school cultures such that there are high value and support placed on being present, actively valuing our relationships, and ensuring a focus on kindness. Perhaps these approaches are some of the factors associated with Joseph Campbell’s reference to the interconnectedness of our lives and the human experience.
Featured image: cc licensed (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) flickr photo Alan Morgan: The end of a wonderful day. https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeff_sch/9274657293/in/photostream/