Thoughts About Recent Events

Dear Friends, 

I am writing this note on Sunday morning, typically a time reserved for worship and church with my family. The new rhythm of COVID life has reshaped our Sunday mornings and this morning has been especially dark and heavy in contrast to the gorgeous summer sun streaming through our windows. I went to bed last night entrapped in the Twitter posts and videos from across the country some of which were taken a few miles from my home.

George Floyd is the most recent in a long history of death of black men and women at the hands of police—or vigilantes as was the case with Ahmaud Arbery in February. My mind and heart have then gone to the black students, parents, colleagues and friends in my personal life and here at Oak Hill. While I am able to mourn and feel outraged, it is important to recognize that the black community is feeling this moment very differently, traumatized in ways that I am unable to access. 

I haven’t watched the video of George Floyd’s death. Each time it pops on my social media feed, I scroll past it. I can’t bring myself to watch the loss of an image-bearer of God at the hands of a police officer who had made an oath to protect and serve. My stomach turns and my heart aches. Scrolling past is an option I have, one not afforded to black Americans who must confront the reality in protection of themselves and their families. 

Founded in 1961 as forced desegregation practices were on the horizon, Oak Hill’s 60th year of operation begins this fall. Like many private schools across the country, we have our own history to reconcile and redeem, and as a community, we have been able to scroll by, insulated by the warm hug that is the Oak Hill community. Leadership, personally and as a school community, compels action and wrestling with the struggles and complexities of the world. In our 60th year, we have an opportunity to live more fully into our statement of inclusion in “creating a community of love and belonging for all Oak Hill students.” In addition, we are called to prepare our children to serve our communities outside of our School walls. As a Christian community dedicated to cultivating character and integrity for learning and service, it would be disingenuous to let this moment pass without writing to you, especially as summer has begun and we are not together to process together and with your children. A central verse for our community, repeated often at Flag is Micah 6:8, which reads:

8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

The Lord’s justice and mercy are part of His character, and our call is to live in humility in carrying out that justice and mercy. How do we wrestle with moments like these with our children? How do we help our children learn to honor the glory and beauty of all people, especially those who don’t look like them? How do we plant the seeds of courage to work towards the Lord’s justice and mercy? There are no easy answers to these questions, and much of how we respond comes from our own personal background and views. However, I’m compelled to make just a few suggestions:

  • Please talk with your children about the events of the past week. Of course, your conversations will depend on the age of your child and the level of their knowledge. I can assure you that they will hear and learn about what has happened, and I encourage you to engage them. Engaging in the saddest parts of life is a great lesson to our children. Children watch what we say—or don’t say—and you have any opportunity to help process with them.
  • Pray with your family. Christian communities are called to live out of hope and promise in God, pulling close to those that are suffering. Pray for those that are hurting, pray for George Floyd’s family, pray for the police, pray for our leaders and our nation.
  • In listening to an interview with Gary Haguen, founder and CEO of the International Justice Mission, he broke down the etymology of the word compassion. Compassion has two Latin roots com - meaning with - and pati - meaning suffering. Literally, compassion means “with suffering.” As a white man, I will never be able to fully empathize with my black friends and colleagues because I can never fully walk in their shoes. Demonstrating compassion at this moment means appealing to the truest sense of the word, finding ways to be with those who are suffering—in our school community, across Nashville and the world. I think this looks different for each of us.

I am convinced that our children’s generation will be called into greater challenges as they begin their adult lives, and the past couple of months have highlighted those extremes. Our responsibility now is to help equip them with the head and the heart to lead, serve and build bridges across the fissures of our world. Our call as parents and educators in this moment is to model and to engage meaningfully in ways that teach and shepherd. The broken pieces of our country feel scattered near and far. My prayer for our community is that we would be part of the people helping gather those pieces and putting them together piece by piece in love and humility. This is the Lord’s work and His call. 

Grace and peace to you,
Hart
Head of School

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