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Message from Scott Cowie, Head, Senior Division

Scott Cowie

Upcoming Senior Division Dates:
• Wednesday, March 8 – Special Schedule, House Hockey Final
• Thursday, March 9 – Locker Clean-Out

To conclude our recognition of Black History Month, Old Boy Jared Walker ’05 spoke to the boys during Monday morning’s assembly. Walker spoke about the racism he experienced in his own life and shared a poignant story about how he was questioned by two policemen while on his way to school here a dozen years ago. The officers apparently struggled to believe he attended UCC. Walker remarked how pleased he was to see evidence of greater diversity at the College today. He also spoke about the horrible historical case of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African-American boy who was brutally murdered in 1955 after allegedly accosting Carolyn Bryant in a store owned by her and husband. Till’s case made headlines back then for a number of reasons, one of which was that his mother insisted on having an open casket so all could see what his killers, who were never convicted, had done to him. Till’s case is making headlines today because the 82-year-old Bryant (now known as Ms. Donham) has recently recanted much of the details she presented as fact back then, details that ultimately caused the senseless killing of a 14-year-old boy.

In reflecting on Walker’s address, I came across an article from the New York Times about Till’s death and Bryant’s recent confession. Amidst the anger, pain, suffering and profound sadness evoked by the article, comments from one of Till’s relatives stood out for me. In speaking of the tragedy, Till’s cousin Wheeler Parker, 77, said “… the word of a white person against a black person was law, and a lot of black people lost their lives because of it. It really speaks to history, it shows what black people went through in those days.” The article concludes with a further reference to Parker who remarkably says he harbours no ill will toward Ms. Donham, and hopes her admission brings her peace. “I can’t hate,” says Parker. “Hate destroys the hater too. That’s a heavy burden to carry.” (“Woman Linked to 1955 Emmett Till Murder Tells Historian Her Claims Were False”, New York Times, January 27, 2017)

I’m not certain I could hold the same perspective toward those responsible if a member of my family suffered like Till did, but Parker’s message of forgiveness is extremely powerful. Indeed, it reminded me of an NPR “This I Believe” speech I heard a few years ago titled “Finding Freedom in Forgiveness.” Through it, a woman, a victim of rape, and a man, who spent 11 years in prison as a result of being wrongly accused of the crime, speak about finding a certain peace in their lives through their respective and collective process of forgiveness. Here’s a link to the written text and the amazing thee-minute audio recording by the co-authors of the essay. It’s well worth listening to.

In many respects, forgiveness seems entirely unnatural; it’s a selfless act that requires much courage and an active, not passive, mindset. Indeed, the easiest route to pursue when we feel we’ve been wronged is to do nothing but dwell on our pain. Yet, to initiate the process of forgiveness, we need to shift our focus away from the hurt we’re experiencing and look toward taking constructive steps to manage our emotions and move forward.

I hope you or your children never have to endure anything as traumatic as Till’s death, or as the experience shared by the co-authors of the essay. But in a community as large as ours, there are bound to be times when your son will experience some degree of emotional pain through the course of his relationships with his peers, teachers or coaches.

How we deal with hurt, pain, anger and frustration is a key part of the forgiveness process and ultimately plays a significant role in our leading of balanced lives. It’s essential for us as parents to actively model forgiveness in our relationships so our kids clearly see its benefits. If we always personalize the actions of others and remain focused on our hurt, we risk being trapped in the realm of negativity and hindered by an unforgiving mindset that will ultimately impact our personal growth and impede our ability to develop meaningful relationships with others. Through forgiveness we find both freedom and fulfillment.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Thanks for reading,