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04 May 2020

Alex Hems: Head's Blog May 4 2020

As the weeks pass and we continue to hear of the suffering brought by this pandemic, many of us will be coming to terms with our own experiences of loss.

It is a natural instinct to attempt to find meaning in the events of our lives. We try to construct narratives to explain why things happen in the way they do, but sometimes that is simply not possible, and we can feel terribly betrayed by life when our certainties and hopes are upended. It is at times like these that we most feel the need to hold those we love close to us, yet it is the particular cruelty of this current situation that we cannot do what feels most natural and right.

Some find comfort in their faith; for others it is in taking action that they find meaning again, or in a combination of both. When we try to make sense of suffering, sometimes the scale of an event or the enormity of someone else’s loss can overwhelm us, but by focusing on the practicalities of offering help we can find some sense of purpose. I do remember that, in the times when I have been at my lowest in life, it has not been from the specific words that anyone said to me that I found comfort, but from the fact that someone had cared enough to try to say something. As human beings we need one another, and we also need to feel that we are needed and acknowledged by others, and we should never forget how much difference kindness can make. I believe that it is partly through our interactions with others that we eventually rebuild ourselves.

I am very conscious that for the young people who are living through lockdown at the moment, many of the certainties of life have been undermined – the daily routines of the day, including school are no longer there; jobs may be under threat, or already gone; there is fear of illness, or perhaps concern for a family member they cannot visit. It has been inspiring to see how many have thrown themselves into a practical response, some by focusing on work, setting themselves fitness targets or learning a new skill, others by volunteering, fundraising or making protective equipment. Thank you to Amelia, in our Lower 6, who has set up her own weekly podcast Hug & Bean, to showcase the happier headlines during lockdown.

The experiences that we have had collectively and individually will undoubtedly change us all, and the way we live in the future. Human constants will remain, however: the value of a smile and gentle kindness; the need for purpose and meaningful goals; laughter and the importance of friendship. These can all be found in school life, and I hope very much that we will be able to welcome the girls back to school as soon as it is safe to do so.

Mrs Alex Hems MA Oxon
Head, St George's School for Girls, Edinburgh

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