Celebration and Contemplation in Boarding

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The SMUS Christmas Gala was easily the best formal event I’ve been to in years! I always love an excuse to break out my finest dress clothes, but this was really a step above. I appreciate Brown Hall food, but it’s always good to go somewhere else and get something I haven’t eaten in a while, and the meal we were presented with was certainly above average. It was more about the social gathering though, a really strong chance to hang out with a ton of people you don’t get to see every day. I caught up with a number of friends I haven’t talked to in a while, plus got to meet a number of their families, which was certainly a different experience. Interesting to see all your peers in an entirely different light now that their parents are around them (or, more intriguingly, they’re even MORE like themselves than usual, if that’s possible). Overall, it was a great chance to be with good friends and show a bit of pride in the school, and certainly an event I won’t be forgetting soon.

by Keith Driscoll, Director of Residence
This past weekend our boarding community kicked off the Christmas Season by joining the Parents’ Auxiliary Christmas Gala and attending our annual Christmas Boarding Chapel. Both of these events model the familial characteristics of our community but in very different ways.

The Gala promotes the festive, joyful and social side of the season whereas our chapel invokes deeper, more reflective aspects associated with the Spirit of Christmas. What I appreciate in both cases is that my wife and three young children are as much a part of the events as the students themselves, exemplifying how the residential experience has as much of an impact on the houseparents and their families as it does on the students.

The Gala infuses the boarders into the full school community as day families from Kindergarten to Grade 12, alumni and teachers take part. The children move from table to table in their fancy ties and dresses making friends along the way with the SMUS students and adults. The safety and comfort I feel as my children wander just out of sight is one that we hope those families that enrolled their sons and daughters in our school can feel with the understanding that we have a vested interest in this community.

In Chapel, we were part of a more intimate affair involving the boarding community. Again, I am grateful for the opportunity my family has to share this time with the rest of our community and reflect on the meaning of Christmas with Reverend Fletcher. I sat, amazed, as my children listened intently to his rendition of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and noticed that everyone in the chapel was also in the moment, perhaps reflecting on their previous readings of the Grinch through the years or on the excitement of soon being home with their family.

As we listened to Danny and Isaac’s rendition of “Ave Maria,” I saw the full promise of an international community sharing a moment that, although it began with Christian roots, is shared universally because the message is one of peace.

by Isaac, School Prefect and Grade 12 boarder
Christmas to me has been a period of time when people start to buy presents for their families and friends, get together and celebrate Jesus’ birth, even though they might not be Christians. I remembered once when I got a Christmas present that I didn’t like. It wasn’t the best feeling that one would anticipate on Boxing Day. Anyway, the point is, why presents? Do Christmas presents equal happiness?

Nay. I don’t think so. Giving presents is a way to express one’s feelings to someone else, but it is being overused and presents have lost their original purpose. Some may be lucky enough to receive Christmas presents every year. They might actually get unhappy if they don’t get more presents than they did in the previous year. Some may not realize that we are already blessed with food, shelter, clothes and loving families. Just like what the Rev has been preaching in chapel, Christmas is not about the presents. It’s not about the new Call of Duty on PS3. It’s not about the new iPhone. It’s not about anything physically solid; rather, Christmas is about joy and happiness.

Try spending more time with your family. I am sure that this applies to not all but most boarders: we don’t get to see our parents in person really often until the long weekends, or even longer breaks like Christmas and Spring Break. What better time than Christmas to spend time with your family? It’s cold outside, so stay home and do something fun together! Drink hot chocolate and play Scrabble or something.

“Ave Maria” – the piece Danny and I played in the recent Boarders’ Chapel, composed by Charles Gounod – is a piece for us to meditate upon, as it states under the title. It offers us a golden opportunity to contemplate about how we have spent our past Christmases, and how we want to spend the future ones. Have some family fun during Christmas. Forget the presents. Cherish the time with them. As long as you have fun, you’re good. Danny and I didn’t choose to play Super Mario as postlude for no reason.

Photos by Ian Robertson, Chris Bateman, Cheryl Murtland and Laurie Parker
Download pictures from the Gala at the SMUS photo gallery!

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