The pencil had a crisp bow wound tightly around its wooden, yellow frame. The tip was freshly sharpened, while its pink eraser was unevenly shaved down from use. Attached to the bow was a card, typed neatly in fine print. The card has since been detached and stored carefully between the other children’s books on my son’s bookshelf. The small card is surrounded by other books—each with their own message. The Little Engine That Could, The Rainbow Fish, The Giving Tree, and countless other books collectively form the nighttime wisdom that transcends many homes. The pencil and ribbon are long gone, but the words on the card remain fresh in my mind…
The Pencil Maker took the pencil aside just before putting him into the box. “There are five things you need to know,” he told the pencil, “before I send you out into the world. Always remember them and never forget, and you will become the best pencil you can be.
ONE: You will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in Someone’s hand.
In a Lasallian school, we strive to teach our students to hear God’s call in their lives. How is God calling you to share your gifts and talents with the world? How are you being called to do God’s work?
Throughout the year, senior Delaney Picciano has volunteered at Joseph House, a place that provides a home for mothers facing an unplanned pregnancy. Joseph House offers mothers access to “educational, occupational, and spiritual resources informed by the Catholic tradition, giving them the opportunity to achieve their God-given potential” (https://www.jhfw.org/). When Delaney mentioned her involvement with Joseph House to her classmate Emily Humphrey, Emily immediately offered to knit mittens and hats for the babies. Remarkably quickly, Emily showed up the following Monday with a bag of hand-knitted items for the babies at Joseph House.
A quote often attributed to Pablo Picasso is “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” Delaney comes from a large family where she has a gift for keeping a watchful eye on children with deep love and compassion. Emily finds great joy and displays a wonderful talent in knitting. “Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house” (Matthew 5:15).
Just like the pencil, we can do many great things when we allow ourselves to be guided by Someone’s hand—God’s hand.
TWO: You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, but you’ll need it to become a better pencil.
Sharpening is often difficult to endure, but necessary to continue to write. This fall, eighth grade student Dan Angelo broke a bone in his foot. Struggling in a cast for many long weeks provided much sharpening. One of Dan’s major disappointments was not being able to participate in the Gettysburg field trip. Fortunately, his new classmate, Justin Thies carried him through the battlefields so not to miss the experience. What began as sharpening, ended in Dan realizing the depth of care in each of his classmates.
As students, there can be many periods of sharpening: scoring lower than expected on an exam, not making an athletic team, the loss of a friendship, not getting a part in a musical. Although painful, all of these disappointments are the sharpening that creates strong adults who can persevere through life’s many challenges—pushing their story forward.
THREE: You will be able to correct any mistakes you might make.
Every pencil has an eraser. There is nothing that anyone can do that God will not forgive…we just have to ask Him. No act changes God’s love for each of us and to paraphrase Father Greg Boyle, we are all much more than the worst thing that we have ever done. Young people frequently let their mistakes define them. Through personal responsibility, change of behavior, and honest repentance, we all have the eraser to change the direction of our story.
FOUR: The most important part of you will always be what’s inside.
On Saturday, Dec. 9, over fifty students volunteered at the St. Lucy’s Christmas Drive. Among these students were many members of the girls lacrosse team. When the opportunity for service was announced, seniors Olivia Penoyer and Claire Jeschke immediately approached me to save spots for their team.
During this season of Advent, we are reminded of the story of the birth of Jesus. Being an ordinary carpenter, the Holy Family was turned away from every inn—finally finding refuge in a manger. If the innkeeper had seen through the outward appearance and known that Mary carried the Son of God would he have acted the same? Experiences like the Christmas Drive remind our students to see through the outward appearance and see the beauty that God created inside each person. Like a pencil, it is the inside that matters most.
AND FIVE: On every surface you are used on, you must leave your mark. No matter what the condition, you must continue to write.
As our students move from seventh grade to twelfth grade and beyond, they begin to define who they are. The blank name that they were given at their birth begins to have meaning. They have started to make their mark.
Junior Sophia Sportelli has begun to leave her mark. Throughout the winter season, Sophia has served as the coach of the Holy Cross Elementary School cheerleading team. Sophia has left her mark on these young children as she shares her knowledge of cheerleading, as well as her kind and caring heart.
Although sometimes viewed as insignificant, one of the most stressful times for people of all ages is the awkwardness of who to sit with at lunch. This awkwardness transcends schools and is impactful to all people, but is extremely significant to young people. Sr. Sue recounted a story recently when 7th grade student John Oliva noticed a classmate wandering the cafeteria with no place to sit. John yelled across the cafeteria for the young man to come join him and his friends at their table. We all leave our mark and the smallest of gestures can make the biggest difference.
The pencil understood and promised to remember, and went into the box with purpose in its heart (Author Unknown).
Every pencil begins its life with the potential to write a great story. The pencil may chip on the outside, break off its tip, or be sharpened so frequently that it barely fits in a hand—but it never loses its potential to write a great story. Being a Catholic school does not mean that we are filled with perfect pencils, but it does mean that we support each pencil in writing their own best story. Through the chips and the sharpenings, we look beyond the exterior. With each mark, the stories begin to unfold, and we watch patiently as each pencil finds their story that God is calling them to share with the world.
Continued blessings throughout this Advent season and have a wonderful Christmas!
Mr. Matthew Keough, Principal