Frank Schofield, superintendent, Logan City School District
The winter months are upon us, and with them, a season of holidays and celebrations from several different cultures. Thanksgiving, Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Bodhi Day, and Christmas all provide opportunities for us to celebrate principles of gratitude, enlightenment, redemption, mercy, and love.
How interesting that these holidays that inspire joy and celebration occur during a time of the year that, for us in Cache Valley, is typically characterized by cold, gray skies, and the occasionally poor air quality day!
In my family, we celebrate Christmas, and each year, I include a poem by Howard Thurman in my personal observation of the holiday. Howard Thurman (1899-1981) was a theologian and early leader of the civil rights movement. He served as a spiritual mentor to many future leaders of the movement, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1944, Mr. Thurman co-founded, along with Alfred Fisk, the first major interracial, interdenominational church in the United States. He spent his life serving others, extending the hand of kindness and understanding across racial and religious divisions. His poem, The Work of Christmas, inspires me to reflect on how I allow the joy and celebration of the holiday to influence my behavior, now and after the holiday season ends.
“When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their
flocks, the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people, to
make music in the heart.”
I am fortunate to work in a profession where I can see daily examples of students and school employees who strive to “find the lost, heal the broken, feed the hungry,” and “make music in the heart.” Whether it is the popular athlete who chooses to sit in class by the student who is sitting alone, the teacher who greets a child each day with a smile and kindness, the principal who makes a phone call just to tell a parent about a small success their child has achieved, the custodian who plays a quick game of basketball with students during recess, or the cafeteria worker who learns each student’s name and greets them personally as they walk through the lunch line, one of the great joys of my job is seeing each of these individuals do “the work of Christmas,” whether they call it by that name or by something else.
On a daily basis, we can all see examples of places where the work of Christmas is so desperately needed. Globally, nationally, across the state of Utah, within our own communities, and in our homes, we have countless opportunities to do the work of Christmas in ways both small and great.
Perhaps we listen more intently when a child tells us about something they did at school. We could deliver a plate of cinnamon rolls to a neighbor, take our family to work in a soup kitchen, or donate money to help a mother in El Salvador start a small business to better provide for her family. As we give service and we include our children in those opportunities, we provide them with benefits that extend throughout their lives. Research has shown that impulse control, being able to express one’s needs and opinions, the ability to negotiate and cooperate with others, having a sense of empathy, and developing emotional coping mechanisms all improve in children who volunteer and serve others on a regular basis. When we consider the reciprocal relationship between doing “the work of Christmas” and the benefits we receive, both as individuals and communities, from doing that work, why wouldn’t we make that a focus of how we use our time and energy?
I am grateful to live in a community where I am surrounded by so many people who actively seek opportunities to serve and uplift others, as I am grateful for the opportunities my family and I have to do the same. As we each strive to more actively and consistently do the “work of Christmas,” I look forward to the ways in which we can “build the nations,” “bring peace among the people,” and “make music in the heart.”