My nieces and nephews are starting school this time of year. They’re all little guys, but each year when they start heading back to school it always gets me thinking about what I’d tell myself if I were still in school. So I wrote you all this letter:
Another school year is beginning, and I remember those first day of school jitters I used to get without fail every year—the ones you might be experiencing now. The excitement over picking out that first day of school outfit, getting super organized with back-to-school supply shopping, and of course day-dreaming that this could be the year I’d meet “the one.”
If there’s one thing I want for you to know as you begin this new school year, it’s that nothing within those four walls of your school has the power to define who you are.
In school you may find that there are a lot of things competing for your attention; so many things begging you to invest your whole identity in. “I am an ‘A Student,’” or, “I am a ‘student council member,’” or, “I belong to this group.”
Your grades are important, and I do hope you try your hardest. Sports and activities are great ways to get to know people and to have fun, so I hope you put yourself out there and try new things. The friends you make during your school years matter and they will certainly influence the way you think and act, so I hope you find good ones—and try to be a good one.
But most importantly, I hope you remember that you are not your grades. You are not the sport you play or the activity you choose to participate in. You are not even the friends that you hang out with.
You are God’s beloved, God’s soldier—God’s precious child. Nothing you do will ever change that, and nothing you learn in school will ever be as important as knowing and believing that.
As you begin this new school year, I invite you to make the prayer of Saint Francis your prayer for this year. Just imagine if our schools were full of students seeking to live this out!
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
God Bless you as you start this new school year! You are in my prayers!