The following is the text of the short address given to most of the school (very young students were in class) on the first day of term four. I share it more widely as it contains some practical advice to promote wellbeing, this week (October 5-11) being Mental Health Week.
I would like to welcome back the school! You, the students and staff are the school, so I welcome you back.
To the students, I hope you are refreshed and ready to continue your school based learning. I hope year 12 are refreshed but also studied in the break to prepare for the conclusion of their school education. You have just a few weeks left, enjoy them and finish positively.
I would like to share with you a little story. Some of you may know this story and if so, please be patient. It is short.
This is a story of an old man and a wooden bowl. A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law and four-year-old grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred and his footsteps faltered.
The family ate together each night at the dinner table but the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating was rather difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped his glass often some water or milk spilled on the tablecloth.
The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. “We must do something about grandfather!” said the son. “I’ve had enough of his spilled drink, noisy eating and food on the floor!” So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, the grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner at the dinner table. Since grandfather had broken a dish or two his food was served in a wooden bowl. Sometimes when the family glanced in grandfather’s direction he had a tear in his eye as he ate alone.
Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp criticisms when he dropped a fork or spilled food. The four-year-old grandson watch it all in silence. One evening before supper the father noticed his four-year-old son playing with wooden scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, “What are you making?” Just as sweetly, the little boy responded, “oh, I’m making a bowl for you and mama to eat from!” The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.
The words so struck the parents that they were speechless! The tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no words were spoken both knew what must be done and that evening the husband took grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family dinner table. For the remainder of his life he ate every meal with the family. For some reason neither the husband nor the wife seem to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the time cloth was messy.
What can we draw from the story?
• Firstly, young people are remarkably perceptive. There is little that young people miss! You process the messages you see, hear and feel; you absorb everything around you while you’re young.
• Secondly, you need to take care of those around you especially family and friends. Family and friends are precious gifts.
• You need to take care of yourself too!
• You need to eat healthily most of the time; junk food is a special treat to be had only sometimes. Eat lots of fruit and vegetables.
• You need to take moderate amounts of exercise. You need 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise. It has been proven this is in your interests.
• You need to have regular sleep habits; depending on your age you need a minimum of 8 to 10 hours every night.
• You need to stop using and put away your electronic devices at least an hour before sleep and you mustn’t let electronic devices to disturb your sleep. They should be in another room.
• You should also celebrate the positives in your life do not dwell on the frustrations. In the story the parents focussed too much on the negatives about the grandfather for a period of time, forgetting all the positives about having the grandfather in the house.
• Try to be clear in your mind about the values that are important to you and try to model them. Try to live them out each day in small ways. Maybe one of the best value she can could consider is to treat others the way you would like to be treated yourself.
• Connect with others, value your relationships with your family and friends. Spend time with them and try to understand their views and perspectives. Appreciate them! Expand your circle of knowledge of others to include those who are not your friends but with whom you share the school.
• Expand your circle of knowledge other ways, actively trying to find positive meaning and purpose in what you do. The easiest way to do this is to do little things for others, do practical things to help others rather than just the selfish things to help yourself.
Why do I mention on these things? I mention them because they are sensible, positive ways to live your life. Some of you will know this week is also Mental Health Week.
If you do all of the things I’ve mentioned it is far less likely you ever suffer from mental health issues. All the things I’ve mentioned are the major preventative measures to ensure positive wellbeing.
Do all these things and you not only are you helping yourself but you’d also be assisting all those with whom you come in contact, helping them to maintain positive wellbeing.
Go well this term. Thank you very much for listening.