Inspired by the worst cold I have had in years, the topic of good health has sprung full-blown into my thoughts. Fortunately, I am on the mend – and besides, compared with some people’s trials, my cold is, well, little more than a sniffle. I look out from my office on the sunny fields full of students running around and playing games – the sounds of laughter, grunts, coaches’ exhortations, cheers. The sound of a ball thudding against a foot bounces across the field, off the front of Schaffter Hall and in my office window. It is important to be thankful for good health.
I recently returned from a meeting of other independent school heads, who were reliving their experience of the H1N1 virus last fall. Some schools suffered high percentages of flu, a good number in the 50% range or even higher. A few schools were closed – or closed to outsiders. I was away on sabbatical at the time, but followed the emails from our school, impressed by the steps taken to stay healthy, by the apparent efficacy of hand-washing, restricting large group meetings, sanitizing of keyboards and doorknobs, and other measures that kept our incidence of flu in single digits, at its worst. Credit for this good health does go to our Health Centre and to Kathy Roth, Acting Head, and the other Directors of Middle and Junior School, Xavier Abrioux and Nancy Richards, for ensuring that the situation was treated seriously and that sensible steps were taken.
Good health in general is a complex thing, of course, and I tend to be impressed by the level of energy and activity of our students. The relationship between physical and inner, spiritual well-being is usually pretty straightforward, and is reflected in one of the school’s mottos: mens sana in corpora sano – a healthy mind in a healthy body. In the past few years, for instance, we have paid special attention to the healthiness of the food on offer in Brown Hall, eliminating or restricting foods that are high in sugar, sodium and fat. Exercise, diet, a balanced routine: all things that contribute to good health, according to any magazine.
Today in Chapel – that excellent 20 minute respite that occurs several times a week – I also reflected on how important are these moments of calm in a day full of activity. These pauses are thoughtful, and serve as a brief but important resetting of the order of things. In the deep breath we take during this pause, balance has a chance to re-assert itself, and to we are reminded, as I like to say from time to time, that the body is inside the soul.