Mrs Ryan’s heartfelt letter to Arden’s Class of 2020 during their final Year 12 Chapel.
It is an absolute privilege to stand here and address you today as one of the many P to 12 Arden staff members who have enjoyed their opportunities to serve as your teachers, tutors, coaches, support staff and leaders. We have all been in this school journey together.
When Mr Rundle asked if I’d like to speak today, I decided that I would write you a letter. I love receiving letters and was once again reminded of the value of this type of communication during our first COVID restrictions.
But before I could write, I needed to revisit those Year 7 English ‘How to write a Letter’ skills, plan, ‘Read to Write’ for this independent, ‘Related Research Project’, before commencing my own ‘Craft of Writing’. There is so much to read about leaving school out there, including ‘The five things I wish I knew when I left school’ or the ‘Top tips for how to live an extraordinary life’. I re-read Julia Baird’s Letters to her daughter Poppy and son Sam and made many notes = Demand Respect and Give it; Use, protect and stretch your fine brains; Grasp every opportunity you are given and run at full pace; know that bad times will pass and buy a really beautiful dress and wear it like a Queen, which always make me think of Mrs Killin, who pointed out, in our early days here together, that ‘nothing is too glamorous for work’. Then I reflected on what we have learnt together, here at Arden; about the value of Love, Hope, Service, Courage, Compassion and Respect, how to use our Gallop Signature Strengths, the importance of friendship, depicted in Honey Spot and Of Mice and Men; the dangers of self-centred ambition conveyed in Macbeth and Great Expectations and the power of love and hope within Skellig, Trash, and Billy Elliot and our regular study of God’s work. And then I was ready to write.
Dear Year 12,
As we come to the end of this time together, there is so much to say. It has been a privilege to serve as your English teacher and your Tutor and there is much to thank God for. He brought us to this school, has guided us through our time here and has provided all we have needed. We have all grown in understanding, confidence, friendship and character.
But as we send you out into life beyond school, life beyond Arden, and I try to provide some advice, some encouragement, let me reference my favourite film and remind you that ‘It is all about Love, actually’.
Go out and Love Life. Take and use every opportunity, face your fears and remember that nothing is ever a waste of time. There is so much excitement and joy ahead. Each moment is so precious. Go out and explore, enjoy God’s creation and take time to find, study and really appreciate the beauty in nature. Oscar Wilde wrote that ‘To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” And Eleanor Roosevelt reminded us that “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for a newer and richer experience.” Julia Baird encourages us to find a purpose and honour it; to laugh at ourselves often, to hunt awe, to value silence and the discipline of logging off and to walk lightly on the earth. Psalm 118: verse 24 reminds us that ‘This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it’.
Go out and Love life-long Learning. Continue to problem-solve, learn new skills and languages, try new recipes, build something, calculate, learn to invest and manage your money, test hypotheses, visit galleries, see a play, travel and learn about new places, times, people and cultures. Be informed global citizens and value information. Love literature and learn from history. Continue to invest time into learning about our Great God. Ask questions, find the answers, wrestle with what is truth and respectfully challenge others who try to discredit what you believe.
Go out and Love others. We are made for relationships and God brings people into our lives for a reason. Accept them, be patient, encourage and show grace, even when they don’t deserve it. Find friends and partners with true hearts and love them long, loyally and unconditionally. Give and forgive. I Peter 4 verse 8 challenges us to love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins and Romans 12 verse 10 encourages us to be devoted to each other in love, honouring others above ourselves. Sound familiar? Arden’s acronym JOY.
Go out and Love God. And if you can’t do this yet, please remember, that he loves you with an everlasting love. He has shown amazing grace, mercy and sacrifice for all of us. When others let us down, he is there; when we let ourselves down he is there; and when we are almost paralysed through fear, anxiety, sickness or loss he is not just there but carries us over each obstacle in our paths. Romans 8 verses 38-39 makes this very clear ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ I encourage you to cling onto this truth.
So, my hope for each of you, as you leave this special place, is that you will love life, love learning, love others and love our great God.
And from Philippians 1 verses 9-11, this is my prayer, for you, our dear Year 12 of 2020, that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.