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Not to do everything but to do something

This term we have seen a number of fundraising events and in the latest blog, Bryanston Head Sarah Thomas emphasises the importance of contribution to the world we live in.

‘Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.’ 

John Wesley might seem an unlikely hero for a girl sent to a convent school as a small child but his famous saying is fantastically clear and keeps us straight. It would perhaps be easy otherwise to take refuge in that unpleasant First World phrase ‘charity fatigue’ as we watch the world from our comfortable armchair in Dorset. But thankfully Bryanston pupils are keen not to stand by. This term alone there has been the Nepal Fair (raising funds for Child Welfare Scheme and Right 4 Children whom we have supported for 12 years), followed by a Frugal Lunch for the children of Syria, and more recently by a day we called “Jeans for the Philippines”. 

Contribution to the world we live in can be in this charitable form. And so it should be, both when there are disasters and emergencies which require all of us to respond and when we are continuing to support our long-term chosen charities. But contribution goes beyond this. Contribution is a frame of mind. 

It’s about noticing others around you and looking outside your own needs and ambitions. It’s about being outward not inward looking. It’s about real life and real activity rather than a virtual version of both. Schools like Bryanston thrive on this way of living. Sport, music, drama and all social engagement are based upon this outlook on life. I strongly believe that you are not a fulfilled person without this sort of engagement and contribution to something larger than your own small orbit whether to your team or in the orchestra. I also believe this way of living can lead a child or adult to the realisation of the need for the emotional and spiritual wellbeing of others as well as themselves. Which might, for all kinds of reasons, be the most important lesson ever learned in school. All of this matters a very great deal to me. 

The theme of our all being connected, even to those we might well not choose to be, by a common humanity is not a new one. John Donne was writing of this in the 1600s and before him Homer too composed epics of great scope and understanding that put victor and victim in the same humane focus. In the dark days of December, remembering what it is that really matters and looking forward to a Christmas holiday of joy and contribution can at least begin to make sense of our conflicting and complicated duties in this fast-changing world.