Respice Finem – TCK, you rock.

Respice Finem – TCK, you rock.

When the whole drama of the little boy without a school ( forbidden word – HIV –  he is not infected , it is confirmed ) unfolded, what broke my heart was the way in which the little tyke sat, alone and downcast, his face turned away from prying cameras. The little blue shorts and the crisp white shirt reminded me of my son’s first day at the school by the sea. Seeing adults trying to outdo each other in shouting out against his admission to the school of their children, made it worse. This was Sri Lanka. In the 21st century.

As the little guy waited with vacant eyes, there was the silence, loud and clear. Folk on social media argued , appalled by the agitating parents and the school authorities. It was a moment when Sri Lanka would showcase her heritage, her pride and joy, her cultural upbringing, her deep sense of hospitality and her hope for her future generations.

It took a school with a strong and deep Christian heritage from the hills of Kandy, to break the deadlock. And to stand up and tell the world despite the protests, the concerns, there were people whose ethics would not permit them to sit still and do nothing when the call was for sanity and for acceptance. To the end. Respice Finem. In the hallowed traditions of the Trinity College Kandy, the values imbibed within its precincts by men the calibre of Rev. Senior who loved Ceylon and composed the beautiful hymn for Sri Lanka, the tune of which is adapted for Danno Budunge, which caused a storm in a tea cup recently when the well known soprano Kishani Jayasinghe sang it.

And so Trinity it was. It was heartening to see the Principal of TCK sign a MOU with the Minister of Education Akila Viraj Kariyawasam in the presence of Bishop Dhilo, Bishop of Colombo. It was a brilliant move, Trinity – one that showed Sri Lanka and the world that as a Christian school built on values of humility, love and empathy, what it takes to make a difference is action not words. As empty words were exchanged between all parties, verbal swords were crossed and opinions aired, Trinity College moved in with deed, sealing the end of a poignant tale with agape love, as embodied in Christ’s mission to the world.

With a son who just left S. Thomas College, Mount Lavinia, I deeply appreciate the wonderful cultural mix of Christian schools,not just as a Christian but also a Sri Lankan. At STC or at TCK, and also at Ladies College where my nine year old daughter schools and all other Christian schools, the children have the opportunity to mix and blend wonderfully – Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Moslems work and eat together, laugh together and learn together. To me, it is a truly beautiful representation of the multi cultural country Sri Lanka is. This little boy will get to experience a culture at TCK that is rich with diversity, that represents the true heart of Sri Lanka. Prejudice along racial and religious lines will be far from his orbit.

Thank Heaven for that.

He will have the opportunity to be a man of courage and conviction, a true Sri Lankan who someday, will give back to society what TCK taught him.

When the story broke, I looked around for any links that I may find in my immediate environment to TCK. And found some  that made me glad to claim a distant yet a link nevertheless, to this great school – my uncles from my mother’s side , the Devendra clan, taught there. My husband’s clan, Dodanduwa Weerasooriyas have had and continue to have Trinitians among its members. Its most illustrious Weerasooriya was Arnolis Weerasooriya who left the college in early 20th century to serve God ; Arnolis is credited with the arrival of Salvation Army in Sri Lanka. The next illustrious member of the Weerasooriya clan to have graced the halls of TCK was David Paynter, whose mother was Anagi Weerasooriya, wife of Rev. Paynter. David Paynter’s beautiful legacy of murals are etched in the chapels of STC and TCK – brilliant creations glorifying Christ, from the hands of a true master. The chapel at Trinity College is featured on a stamp as well and is recogniszed widely for its uniquely Sri Lankan architecture. My father-in-law Maurice Weerasooriya was also a Trinitian, one of the many Christian boys from Galle who went there.

So Trinity, you made us proud. We salute you because you showed everyone that you could make a difference. Stand up and be counted.

” For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in” – Matthew 25:35

 

The grand old ladies who tell grand stories…

The grand old ladies who tell grand stories…

I always love seeing the well put together, grand old ladies going to church on Sunday morning.

There’s something so beautiful, so enriching about them. They usually dress in their Sunday best and are almost impeccable as they come to worship God on the Sabbath. As they sit dignified in the pews and kneel, there are hundred no a million stories about what rich lives they might have lived and served God in their own unique faithful ways.

They grew up during the days when no one dressed in sloth , not just to come to church but for almost every occasion. There was an unspoken dress code. No one did skinny jeans and t shirts and certainly not in church. You took the time to dress, you found the time to match accessories and make sure you were presentable. They didn’t and still don’t walk in with unkempt hair ; they are as well groomed as their age and station in life allows them to.

They are well versed in the art of inter-personal relationships – otherwise known as social skills. They do not look sullen and occupied with cellphones and social media. They know how to greet and make small talk, feats by today’s standards. They are concerned for others and would usually ask after the sick and the absent.

They take their obligations seriously. They are almost always on time and do not make mockery of coming late. Despite old age and aching bones, they can be found well in time in their slots. They belong to a generation that learnt keeping time without cellphones. They probably still own old style alarm clocks that have faithfully served them over the years.

They respect other people and take pride in their knowledge – although some may dismiss it as gossip of sorts. They are not preoccupied with selfies and social media status updates. They go for funerals and remember birthdays and not because Facebook prompts. They are likely to carry little diaries with birthdays and anniversaries faithfully jotted down. Like my mother does, they read obituaries in the newspapers and know if someone’s loved one has passed away.

The grand old ladies (I won’t call them little old ladies because most of them are not little but truly grand, having lived enriching lives) have so much to share with us. I admire the fact that almost all of them can still find the time to wear sari to church, when most of us have trouble finding anything other than jeans and a t shirt. They come from a time when you wore your best to be in God’s house every Sunday. They have always dressed well for whatever the occasion – and they still do.

In their own unique way, they share with us their legacy – a sort of a remembrance of a time when life was lived on different terms. When commitments mattered and one kept one’s word in many different ways. When asking after another was the thing to do – when obligations and values were prized over self-importance and selfishness. When frugality was preferred over wasteful abundance. When children had to learn life’s lessons the hard way.

So the next time you see a grand old lady in church or anywhere else, remember to go up and give her a hug – and ask yourself what you can learn from her. You will cherish the occasion.

WHAT ARE WE AS CAREER WOMEN TEACHING OUR KIDS?

 

My six year old daughter loves her Barbies and can play for endless hours in her imaginary Barbie house, having picked up a lot from the Barbie videos she has learnt to download from YouTube. She is very apt at using technology, the legacy of millennium kids, even at six years. When I become a mother, which is her way of saying when I grow up, she says she will do what Ammi does. She even says very admiringly that she will wear glasses, when she becomes a mother. ( I happen to wear glasses). My point here is that daughters are almost always likely to watch, imitate and follow their mothers and of course, sons their fathers, no matter what politically correct gender mix nonsense that passes for modern thinking out there. That’s the way it has been and that’s the way it will be in the future too.

But are we doing the things that will empower them to become successful adults?  Are we giving them the sense of direction, stability and focus they need to emerge balanced, confident young men and women who can lead successful lives whether in their careers or in their personal lives? Too many young people are becoming confused, insecure individuals whose troubles can be sometimes very easy to spot. Too many are driven by trends and what is fashionable only to discover that real life is not like that at all.

As mothers of all shades, and as career women, I personally believe that we have a responsibility to ensure that the daughters and sons of our generation , whether biological, adopted or otherwise, are able to learn from our success and go on to create success themselves. There is so much we can do – and it is never too early to start. Just watch a few little girls or boys at play – you will notice that they are streets ahead of what we used to be as kids. They are technologically savvy and are able to comprehend a lot more than we could grasp. They represent a generation that has grown up with amazing technological feats that were unimaginable just ten years ago. Yet, without mentoring, they will not be able to harness the power, develop strong values and become what they should become, able to take the lead in tomorrow’s world.

A mother could always start by encouraging her daughter or her son to do things on her own  ; becoming independent is a core value that will spur other qualities. There is not much point in becoming highly qualified if she is not able to do things on her own. Some mothers make the mistake of mollycoddling their daughters and their sons even into adult life. Ladies, we must know when to cut the strings. That does not mean you will lose the central place in their lives – rather, it means that they will always remember how you encouraged them to become empowered by learning to do things on their own.

Children learn from observing. If they observe you cherish values such as hard work, punctuality, responsibility and empathy, they will want to follow those traits. Teaching children the value of hard work is one of the best foundations a parent can lay in their young lives. Too often, we hear of young men and women who want the easy way out. They want cushy jobs, a senior manager once shared with me, with the perks but are not very willing to do the work. It would seem to me that they have not had the opportunity to see the value of hard work as they were growing up. Granted all the technology has made some of us lazy –we do not even have to remember any phone numbers now, just ask Siri to dial someone for you – but we can never tire of mentoring our daughters and of course our sons in the way they should be.

Empathy is a strong trait that is often absent in our  circles. Just visit a public toilet to know what I mean. Thinking of others sometimes doesn’t cross our minds at all. But teaching children that other people matter as much as we ourselves do, is a vital point in ensuring that they will be set up for success later in life. Whether as colleagues, bosses or partners, they will perform best if they understand and know that all people are worthy of respect and attention.

Young men and women would benefit tremendously from being exposed to good manners from an early age. One can never underestimate the power of being well mannered. It starts early in life and it starts in the home. No matter how powerful you may be in your career or how high you are, it is your responsibility and yours alone to teach and pass on values to your children. In the process of bringing up children, there are no excuses, unfortunately. Children who have been exposed to strong values in the home are able to translate these into a stronger foundation for success in later life.

Women who have achieved success have a greater responsibility to ensure that the success trickles down into their personal lives. The world is full of unhappy children who have had to watch their immensely successful mother (or father sometimes) charm the world ; they may have yearned for that charm at home but the parent was often absent or was distracted when spending time with the family. It is important for us to know and understand at home, we are not the CEOs or the high -powered career women but mothers and wives whose attention means the world to the children. There is the story of the famous Hollywood actress who chose to live in Europe with her kids and not cash in on her Hollywood glamour. Her grown up children later said that they did not even know their mommy was a star – to them, she was just their mummy who loved them.

It is never too late to start – let us start investing in the futures of our children – let their legacy be one of building a strong foundation of values, love and confidence.