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Roland Martin - Issue #41


Roland Martin

January 24 · Issue #41 · View online

Headmaster - City of London Freemen's school; Chief Officer - City of London; Chair - Society of Heads - '...write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing' Benjamin Franklin

9 January 2017 - first whole school assembly of the year. No fancy links here, just what the students heard from me this week.

The return
Bizarre to think that this has been my first opportunity to see you all this term, as we seem some way in now. To those of you who have been busy sitting mocks, well done for getting through, though the most important part of that process is still to come: getting good feedback on where you went right and wrong and learning from it. Hopefully, you will have an idea of what gaps need to be filled between now and May and can act accordingly.
Unless you are someone unfortunate enough to suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and have spent most of January in front of a SAD lamp, there is something quite optimistic about a new year and we are provided with an opportunity for self-reflection, which sometimes passes us by at other times.
The cusp of 2016/17 has been particularly interesting with so many pundits, luminaries and media types banging on ad infinitum about what a dreadful year 2016 was – largely on the back of quite a few celebrity deaths, rather than owing to more meaningful human disasters that occurred, I’m afraid.
The result is that poor old 2017 has quite a burden of expectation placed upon it and I will look forward with interest as to how this year shoulders the heavy weight thrust upon it.
The wonder
But I am going to start this morning by considering a subject that I have absolutely no qualification to talk to you about, touching on an element of human biology: the skin.
Skin is a wonderful part of our body. It might surprise you to hear someone so enthusiastic about it but it really is an amazing creation and if it hadn’t already been created and someone invented it, it would be the most marketable invention since the wheel or the internal combustion engine. Not only is it strong, flexible, sensitive and waterproof, but when our skin is injured it has the amazing capacity to renew itself. I was reminded of this in the week before Christmas when I had a run-in with a new saucepan and burnt my hand quite dramatically: a few weeks later, and the scars – which seemed severe – are all but gone. Like me, you may wonder how this happens …
The process
First, when we suffer a cut or graze, immediately a clot begins to form to protect the area. White blood cells also migrate from the skin nearby in order to kill off microbes that have the potential to cause disease. This occurs right from the moment of injury and continues over a period of days.
Second, during the next three weeks granulation tissue forms and fills the gaps created by the wound. New blood vessels are created and the edges of the wound begin to contract, pulling it together. This process is often helped by the good first aider or school nurse who will have applied direct pressure, brought a wound together, stitched or plastered the wound.
Finally, over the following couple of years (yes – I did say years!) the skin builds up, gradually increasing its strength. The skin has made itself new, although it will never regain more than 80 per cent of the strength of the original skin. Consequently, those of us with battle scars and wounds from the games’ fields or accidents will have some weaker areas in our skin structure.
The metaphor
Skin wounds can be healed in most cases. We’re left with a slight trace of a scar, but that’s all.
Of course, it’s not quite so easy to heal wounds in our relationships, our hopes and ambitions, our promises and plans. When things go wrong in these parts of our life, so many times they remain a source of frustration and pain, sometimes, for many years; sometimes, for a lifetime. We brood on them; we avoid people and places because of them; we can have sleepless nights over them; our stomachs lurch at the thought of them.
The New Year has traditionally been a time for making a new start. New Year’s resolutions are made, and frequently broken in the first few days. My vow to give up cheese for a short spell fell foul of the first piece of Brie with which I was tempted.
The sermon
I heard a brilliant sermon on New Year’s Day that literally and metaphorically deconstructed a Christmas tree. The Rector started by getting some members of the congregation to take off the decorations while he likened them to all of the things that we regretted having said and done during 2016 – if only they could be put in boxes in the attic in the same way that the decorations could be archived for the year. The lights represented the unfulfilled hopes and ambitions from the previous year, that would also be put away in the attic. And the branches – pruned off at this point by members of the congregation – represented the painful experiences that we might have experienced in the previous year; if only they could be recycled like our Christmas trees.
Resolutions are good for the future, but they don’t deal with the wounds of the past, do they? Maybe the New Year could provide a healing in these areas too. How might this be achieved?
The answer
First, I think it’s useful to identify those areas of relationship breakdown, of failure and of disappointment that appear to be outside of our control at present. This isn’t to ignore them, merely to put them on the back-burner until we can give some imaginative thought to solving them. Second, I suggest that we make a list of all the actions we can take, words we can say and attitudes we can cultivate that could begin the healing process for us and the other people affected. Going up to a number of people and saying sorry will probably be top of the list for many of us. Or getting into a better set of routines. Or having that difficult conversation that we keep putting off. Or vowing to stop letting people that care about us, down. Third, I suggest we set ourselves the task of ticking off one item from our list every day until the list is closed: turn those good intentions into actions because actions are what we are judged by and what we should judge ourselves by, more than intentions.
The plan
Simple, three point plan for 2017 then:
• Be thankful for the possibility of a new start.
• Be sorry for any wounds you may have caused in the lives of those around you.
• Make a plan to take some action in those areas of your lives in which you think that you can improve.
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