I See You: SF Waldorf High Gratitude
Posted by Anne Veh on May 29, 2019
Yesterday, our Kindness Team visited San Francisco Waldorf High for a Gratitude Circle on the senior class' final full day of school! As has been our tradition for last few years, this circle was a bookend to an opening "Kindness Circle" at the start of the school year last August.
As we arrived, Joan greeted us with warm smiles. We walked into the classroom, and the students' handmade service projects from the year were arranged as a centerpiece for the circle. They were stunning "little free libraries" that the students hand built themselves -- one for books, one for clothes, one for toys, and a "food pantry" one for canned or long-lasting food. Their intention was to find a suitable spot in San Francisco to place their library, for anyone to use, share, and enjoy. At the start of the school year, Joan had posed questions on the "deeper meaning of service" -- and we had a small discussion around why we serve, learning about unique volunteer experiences different students had had. Nine months later, seeing their service projects at the center of our circle, it felt like we'd really come full circle.
Before we began, Joan generously led us to a small room with a stunning view of the redwood trees, as a quiet space for our Kindness Team to ground ourselves in stillness before we began. We then entered the classroom, now filled with students, to start the day.
They opened with a beautiful morning verse, which they recite at the start of every day, and it was the final time the senior class would be reciting it together to begin the day. Then, we took a note of inspiration from Melissa, who (inspired by Pancho!), began taking roll call in her classes with each student saying "I am here" after their name was called, and with her response being: "I see you." Each person shared their name, and the whole circle said "We see you".
Following that, we held a minute of silence together to transition into our circle, and shared in partners about a recent moment that we felt grateful for. One person shared about having gone through a rough falling out with a close friend, and how she was grateful for her family and friends who buoyed her spirit through the difficulty. Two students recently returned from an exchange program in Korea, and commented on how warmly they were hosted abroad in a foreign country. Another mentioned how her steering wheel often gets stuck, and last week, it had gotten so stuck she couldn't drive it, but a police officer nearby unexpectedly helped her and gave her tips on how to get it unstuck in the future. :)
After a sharing and reflecting, Andy led a powerful walking meditation of well-wishes. Half the class wore blindfolds, and the other half of the class walked around the room and partnered up with a blindfolded person. They placed a hand on the blindfolded person's back, and collectively wished that person happiness, joy, health, and peace of mind and spirit. When the collective well-wish finished, everyone milled around the room and buddied up with another person to do it again. By the end of the activity, the air held a notable stillness.
We sat back down and Joan and a few students handed back intentions that they had written to themselves at the start of the school year. Most of us had forgotten that we had written these, :) and it was beautiful to witness eyes light up at reading a message from their former selves.
Reflecting in pairs, we each shared one learning from the year, and a value that we hope to embody going forward. One student summed it up for all of us when she said, "One thing I've learned ... is that we're never alone." In that spirit, everyone put that realization into practice as we each took a flower from the center of the circle, and went out into the rest of the school to gift it to a classmate, teacher, mentor, or someone in the building to whom they wished to express gratitude. :) There was an exhilarated energy that filled the room as everyone returned. :)
For our closing piece, we had a surprise! :) Pancho video called in from his walking pilgrimage -- all the way from Santa Ana! -- to offer closing words to the class. Everyone was rapt with attention, as he smiled his wide Pancho smiles. He extended his gratitude to the students, and upon being asked to share some reflections from his walk, he noted how over the last few months, he's walked with no money or food, and depended on the kindness of strangers the whole way. On reflecting on the quality of interactions, the generosity received and the virtues cultivated, he wondered what the world would look like if we all met each other in the spirit of service. In that spirit, the class stood up in a circle and offered a closing verse to Pancho.
With that, Joan lovingly prepared a delicious spread of snacks for everyone to enjoy before they went off to give presentations on their senior projects. We couldn't help but notice how in the span of nine months (which seemed like both just yesterday, and yet also a long time ago!) the students had grown so much more into themselves and who they were. Their genuine way of listening, sharing, and being was a beautiful gift to witness, and we were so honored to be there with them.
At one point, when the students returned from gifting someone a flower, Nimo's Grateful music video was playing in the background. One student asked, "How did these circles begin?" which led to a deepening conversation, to which we all landed at a shared resonance in the power of learning beyond knowledge; the kind of that teaches us how to be; that hold space to reflect on our motivations, what values to live by, and how to show up to our interconnections and the continual ebbs and flow that life offers us.