Being Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
Last year, conflicts involving airline passengers and reclining seats forced three flights to land prematurely. What these conflicts have in common is the declining amount of personal space on planes as the airline industry works to maximize profits at the expense of passenger comfort. One person’s reclining seat impedes the functionality of another’s tray table. These two standard amenities of airline travel are colliding with a customer base that is pushing back against the increasing discomfort of airline travel.
There is no doubt that the airlines have reduced passenger space during a time that coincides with larger passenger size. Airline travel, however, has never been an individual process. It has always been a lesson in community. Airline passengers often sit next to people whom they do not know; coach seats have never been overly spacious; people have always had to wait to share tiny restroom facilities; and, all must wait patiently for those seated ahead of them to deplane. Airline travel has always been an exercise in being comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Schools, particularly boarding schools, are places where there are myriad opportunities for young people to discover the many gifts associated with living in community. Boys at Trinity-Pawling know that they are cared for at school by their teachers, coaches, and dorm parents. The importance that the School places on community, such as gathering for chapel four times a week or having family-style meals five times a week, reflects a commitment to create a learning environment where the School is not only a community, but like a family as well. As in any community, there are times where all of its members must be comfortable with being uncomfortable (or any family, for that matter!). It is often in the periods of discomfort where the greatest growth occurs.
As parents, we want our children to learn to take healthy risks in order for them to grow. We teach our children how to ride a bike, knowing that they will fall off and possibly hurt themselves. This risk, however, is a necessary and healthy one because learning how to ride a bike provides a child with greater independence to explore his or her world. Challenging young people to take healthy risks is all about embracing the opportunity for growth and revelation that comes from being uncomfortable.
The learning environment at Trinity-Pawling promotes healthy risk taking. Teaching students, particularly boys, the importance of distinguishing healthy risks from unhealthy ones is a priority. Healthy risks demand vulnerability and lead to growth. For students to risk being vulnerable, perhaps risking failure, they must feel safe and connected in their school environment. This winter, the students and faculty will begin to explore new ways of learning through interdisciplinary projects. For many, this will be a new experience and there is no previous template from which to work. It will be a time for being comfortable with being uncomfortable. And, it will be a time of learning and growth.
As an Episcopal boarding school, Trinity-Pawling is in a distinctive position to help boys discover that it is through these moments of discomfort that there exist opportunities for tremendous growth and revelation of God’s love. Jesus challenged his disciples to see God’s grace and love in the uncomfortable moments in life. Whether it was highlighting the love shown by the Samaritan on the road to Jericho, breaking bread with tax collectors, or the cleansing of the lepers, Jesus’s ministry is a call to live in community with one another, especially when that call challenges us to grow through moments of discomfort or even confusion. This, I might add, also holds true for the communities we encounter when we travel on airplanes!
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