January 27, 2012

2012 Catholic Schools Week Supplement

The joy of Catholic schools: Simple tools offer lasting lessons about relationships

By Emerson Wolff

At St. Luke the Evangelist School, students are privileged to have the opportunity to participate in many special events. The eighth-graders’ trip to Camp Rancho Framasa in Brown County offers a unique opportunity to bond and connect with classmates in an outside setting away from school. The activity that I cherished the most was the campfire.

When we first arrived, we laughed and sang camp songs led by Mrs. (Tara) DeWitt and Mrs. (Tara) Strohl, but soon the chatter became quiet when the topic of the evening grew serious. Mrs. DeWitt passed out tubes of toothpaste and paper plates to several people. The partners were instructed to squirt out all of the toothpaste onto the plate. All the partners were able to squeeze their toothpaste onto the plate without a problem.

Then Mrs. DeWitt told us to put all the toothpaste we had squirted out on the plate back into the tube. This task seemed nearly impossible, and none of the groups were successful in their attempts. The significance of the toothpaste, Mrs. DeWitt told us, was that it represented our words. It is easy to quickly say hurtful and unkind words, but much harder to clean or mend the damage that these words can cause.

We can never take back the hurtful words we have said to our peers just like we couldn’t put the toothpaste back into the tube.

Later, Mrs. (Pam) Scheck shared with us her personal experiences about bullying. She gave the analogy that when someone hurts you, it is like they are shooting an arrow through your heart. She then proceeded to hand all of us paper arrows and told our class to write down all the hurtful words we have spoken or others have said to us.

After several minutes of reflection, everyone threw their arrows into the fire and watched them burn. Suddenly, all the emotions of the night ran together and slowly many students began to cry. We walked around hugging each other while tears streamed down our cheeks. No one asked us to cry and hug one another, yet we did. We made an emotional connection without saying a word.

At the closing ceremony, we described each other not just as classmates, but as a family. We all made a pact to make this last year our best ever.

(Emerson Wolff is an eighth-grade student at St. Luke the Evangelist School in Indianapolis.)

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