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St Peter's 13-18

6 March 2020

The Power of Kindness

‘In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like criticising anyone”, he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages you’ve had.”

Not only is this inherently good advice, it is also one of the most famous opening lines in literary history. For nearly a century F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby has entranced and intrigued readers and critics, with its complicated narrative strategy, and shocking denouement as the layers of the central character are gradually peeled away.  When choosing a reading for National Book Day, I had initially chosen this extract as I had told myself that it was the book I had read more times than any other.

However, on reflection, I have realised that there is another book that I have read more times than this one. It too has a beguiling narrative strategy and an intriguing male lead whose character is only fully revealed in a dramatic denouement. Its opening sentences are equally famous:

“A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood. A fox saw the mouse and the mouse looked good. “Where are you going to little brown mouse? Come and have lunch in my underground house.” “It’s terribly kind of you, Fox, but no – I’m going to have lunch with a gruffalo.”

We tend to think of reading as a silent and solitary exercise, but by this age I am certain that I have read Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s The Gruffalo more times than any other book.

I would like to say a few words about the importance of kindness. The last couple of weeks have been a tough one for our community.

On Wednesday we learned of the very sad news of the death of Mr Dan Woods, whom many of you will have known from cricket, and who was an inspirational and committed coach and sportsman. 

In recent weeks we have suffered heavy rain and flooding, which I know has affected some of your lives directly. 

At the moment we are doing what we need to do to keep our school community safe and healthy.  Please give a thought to our wonderful cleaning staff, much of whose work goes on before our day starts. They are often here before the rest of us are awake.

There are things that we can do as individuals. One of the simplest is the power of the kind word. Look out for the Upper Sixth pupil in your House who may be giving that extra push at the moment. They need to know that you know. Simple thank-yous to our FAs, our caterers and our Estates Staff, can do a lot of good.

In the remaining weeks of term, please look after yourselves and each other.