Since December our 8th graders have been stepping up in front of the entire school community to give a sermon on their spirituality. This morning, Douglas gave a sermon that summarized his experience at Canterbury over the last nine years. He explains, clearer than I have ever heard before, what it is to be a student at Canterbury. So I will let him speak for all of us:
“To Learn, To Love, To Serve, To Live” We all know these words as the Canterbury motto, yet it is really a motto for each of us to live by. As an 8th grade student, as my mom would say, I have heard, spoken and repeated these words about a cagillion times during my time at Canterbury School. Have you ever really thought about what these words mean to you? Not just as a student of Canterbury School, but as a person with intellectual curiosity, compassion, spiritual purpose, and moral direction.
“To Learn”, According to the Webster Dictionary, “to learn” is to acquire knowledge or skill in. My 9 years here at Canterbury School, I've had many opportunities to attain knowledge. One of my vivid memories is the “MDG Explorers” experience in 7th grade. We spent two days outdoors trying to find solutions to global issues. We took on the identities of people living in developing countries and experienced first hand some of the challenges they face daily of shelter, hunger, and fatigue. We had to work together to find solutions to big problems. I was assigned the position of someone with very little food or money while other people had both food and money. I had to learn to save and barter with what little I had for both food and shelter. These seemingly silly challenges over the course of two days gave me a glimpse of what many around the world face everyday. This exercise, developed by Canterbury, was one that not only tested our endurance but challenged our mind to realize what others less fortunate go through on a daily basis.
The Outdoor Education Center is another opportunity “to learn” at Canterbury School. We have learned many skills such as how to belay, climb on the low ropes course and the high ropes course. The high ropes course is an example of not only learning a skill but also learning how to trust your classmates. When you are suspended thirty feet in the air with one of your peers on the other end of the rope, trust is very important. I have appreciated this type of learning and have realized how lucky we are to have the Outdoor Education Center.
“To Love”, according to the dictionary, “to love” means to hold dear or cherish. At Canterbury School, we are given so many opportunities to develop long lasting relationships with both teachers, faculty and students. Some of us have been together for the full nine years, others may have joined our class midstream, yet we all have a special bond. Our class is very unique because we are one of the smaller classes and we have very few boys, in fact the ratio of girls to boys is two to one. For many that would be a real negative but we have instead come together, appreciating our likes and differences. Not all of us like the same sport, dress alike, live in the same neighborhood or have the same interests but we all hold dear our friendships with one another. My brother, Clay, graduated three years ago and just about every weekend his friends are at the house either playing XBox, basketball,or just hanging around . My mom made the comment the other day that the Canterbury clan seems to always comes back together. The friendships I've made over the years are very special and I know I will cherish each and everyone of you forever.
As students in middle school we may not take the time to communicate our appreciation to the teachers and staff. For instance, on the Odyssey Course at Wilderness Adventure, it will not be forgotten how Mr. Carrick, Chris Lindsey and I raced to get off the high ropes course as it began to thunder. We were the last group on the course, I fell and was in a position that I could not get back up, Mr. Carrick came to the rescue.
“To Serve”, according to the dictionary, “to serve” means to act or work as a servant. Canterbury has shown us from age five to fourteen the importance of giving back to the community. In lower school we sang for the elderly at Well Spring, collected can goods for the less fortunate, and collected school supplies for children that had no supplies. Recently I went to New Orleans on an 8th grade mission trip with five classmates -all boys! We worked with an Episcopal mission group to assist victims of Katrina. While there we helped an elderly man clear his garage of debris and trash and we cleared an area of land of trees, shrubs and trash so that new houses could be built. Although it was great fun being with Mrs. Fisher, Mr. Vogel and five of my classmates, the best feeling was that I felt I had made a difference. I had helped someone in need, I had acted as a “servant”.
Another opportunity “to serve” that has been very important to me has been Hutton's Hero's. As so many of you know, Hutton is one of my closest friends and he has diabetes. I, like so many of you, have participated in the Juvenile Diabetes Walk held in September. Every year the group gets larger and larger as awareness spreads. Not only do we raise money for an important cause but we gather as a school to support three students affected by the disease. We create awareness of a disease that is increasing daily. Canterbury has always given back to the community but is especially evident when you see the JDRF team t-shirt worn by children, teenagers and adults.
As we are sit here in Phillips Chapel, I realize how fortunate I am to have had such an opportunity to serve God. I have been allowed to participate in services through reading the prayer, singing a hymn, holding the flag, and carrying the cross. Phillips Chapel brings the entire school together two to three times a week and whether it is to hear a sermon, come to the front for a birthday wish, announce the score of the lacrosse game or to encourage recycling, we are all together under one roof.
“To live” The final words of the Canterbury School motto and yet my favorite. “To live” is to remain alive or continue existence but what it means to me is to make sure you take what God has given you and run with it. At Canterbury School there are so many ways “to live”. Whether performing in Bye Bye Birdie, competing in chess club, playing in the band, or participating in sports, there are all kinds of ways “to live” here at Canterbury. I have played soccer, basketball and lacrosse while in middle school and have not only loved playing each of these sports but also representing Canterbury School. I have great pride for this place and it has allowed me “to live”. I am currently playing lacrosse for Canterbury and it has been an unbelievable season. We have 6th, 7th and 8th graders on the team and we have all pulled together as one and been so supportive of one another. One of the biggest games of the season was against Mendenhall Middle School. We went into this game expecting to compete against a great team and although it was a rainy, cold night and we were all very nervous, we came together and pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year. We defeated Mendenhall by one goal and you would have thought it was the Super Bowl of 2011. There were so many students, parents and even alumnae there to support and cheer us on. This game was the definition of “to live” for me. I will never forget this season of lacrosse playing for Canterbury School.
Another example of the meaning “to live” is Wilderness Adventure! In the fall of your 8th grade year, you get to go on the bonding trip called Wilderness Adventure and as the teachers say “You're not truly an 8th grader until you get back from this trip”. We did such things as the fly down the zip line, go caving in the dark, mountain biking, climbing, and rafting. We also, as a class design our banner that will represent each and everyone of us as the Class of 2011. Wilderness Adventure allows each of us to stretch ourselves by testing both physical and mental endurance. At one point while caving in complete darkness, I found myself stuck on a ledge. Not only did I have to move myself very carefully so as to not fall in the pit but I also had to stay calm and not panic. Upon completing the caving exercise and back at the lodge relaxing, I realized that's what it means “to live”.
“To Learn, To Love, To Serve, To Live”, the Canterbury School motto, but more importantly a motto for direction and guidance. As you repeat these words in the years to come, I encourage you to find your own meaning to the motto. As for me, they are words that not only remind me of my memories of Canterbury School but also how God wishes me to live my life from this day forward.