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Positively hopeful

A St. Bernard’s School student donates to the Saranac Lake Interfaith Food Pantry in a box at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church. (Photo provided by St. Bernard’s School)

Throughout the year at St. Bernard’s School, we hold positivity as a light by which we are guided in our words, actions and decisions. Hope is both a result and a cause of positivity. During the month of November, we are focusing on the virtue of hope.

We teach the children that to offer hope is to give a gift that lives on in someone’s heart, by feeling connected with others. The gift of hope is simple and enduring, springs from one heart to another, and is of immeasurable worth. What are some of the ways we offer hope to individuals? St. Bernard’s classrooms have responded in various ways.

Mrs. Danielle Fitzgerald said of her fifth-grade class, “We have written letters to recipients of Meals on Wheels for Halloween and will be writing them for Thanksgiving as well. We talk about how small gestures like this can change someone’s entire day. We have been discussing how showing kindness to strangers can give hope. We talked about how even something as small as acknowledging someone as you pass them (saying hello or waving) can change their whole perspective on life. The students understand that you never know what someone is feeling or what type of day they are having, and something as simple as ‘hello’ can make all the difference.”

Mrs. Karen LaBonte’s fourth-grade class has had lessons in English language arts to delve into the meaning of hope. She said, “Hope can be something simple such as hoping for snow to play in. Hope can also be giving others hope by helping, by showing them love and kindness. As a class, we want to give others hope as we navigate through this interesting time of COVID-19. We discussed that we want to try to be the light for others and stay positive through uncertain times. We discussed and wrote poems about hope. Our class wants to remind others to say a prayer when you might be needing a little extra hope. We are in this together, and our hope is that soon we will be back to normal — hopefully a new normal where we can show love, kindness and even more appreciation than ever. “

Mr. Dan Drake’s third grade takes its turn with our weekly Prayer Service to focus on the virtue of hope and its value in our lives. He previewed the service by saying, “We found and will read Bible verses that identify hope for the upcoming holiday season and for getting us through this time of remote learning.”

Mrs. Megan Czadzeck said, “The second-grade class celebrates the virtue of hope through their words and actions. In October we created special Halloween cards and wrote notes inside for to be distributed to those who receive Meals on Wheels. Our hope is that when they receive their cards, they know they were made with love.” Additionally, second- and fourth-graders made cards for veterans of Elderwood and in the parish. 

Mrs. Jenni Evans said, “First grade is focusing on finding the good in situations that are not ideal. In SEL (social emotional learning) we have been discussing how the way we feel affects our actions and, in turn, how we treat others. We are trying to have positive attitudes and finding things to be thankful for.”

Ms. Allison Miller engaged her students thus, saying, “The kindergarten class acted in the virtue of hope by decorating small wooden crosses and having them blessed by Fr. Martin at our prayer service. He will be giving them to the parishioners and community members he visits to provide pastoral care. It is our hope that people will know that no matter how bleak their situation may seem or how lonely they are, that they are being held in the hearts and prayers of the kindergartners of St. Bernard’s School.”

The children love school so much that facing a week of remote learning is a good opportunity to teach them about the virtue of hope and the ways to help others have hope, too. Principal Andrea Kilbourne-Hill encourages family and community participation by saying, “Our pre-Thanksgiving food drive is still on! We will just be asking families to participate from home! This food drive should give you the opportunity to develop ‘an attitude of gratitude’ with your children. Talk to them about all the things your family has that often go unappreciated: food, warmth, books, love. Discuss how you can share what you have with others. Look at the list of items our food pantry needs, and decide what you can offer. Then either drop off the food at the Interfaith Food Pantry during the designated drop-off times or at the side entrance of St. Bernard’s Church anytime.”

Contributing to the Interfaith Food Pantry and other pantries is one way the children learn how adults in our community offer hope. Other services and actions taken by community members have resulted in the establishment of Samaritan House transitional housing for those in need of temporary shelter. Donations and contributions to charities of all kinds help families and individuals in need. Some attend to a neighbor in need or help strangers in unexpected ways. In this Christian worldview, every person is valued and worthwhile. We are united in our singular humanity. Many churches’ and community services’ members continuously and selflessly care for others in ways that generate hope in the lives of those around them.

All children may learn the virtue of hope through instruction and by example. The monthly emphasis on virtues help the students to create loving continuity in their relationship to individuals and the world. The Thanksgiving holiday is a good time to consider how we spend the hours of our lives, to discern where something tangible or intangible in our lives may be devoted to someone in need. May God help us all to help each other.

Sylvia Hough is the family support coordinator at St. Bernard’s School in Saranac Lake.

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