Hurricane Sandy blew through this week and thankfully spared most of us in the Mullica Hill area from significant devastation and loss. Not so in many other areas of New Jersey and surrounding states, as images played out on television of the loss of homes, goods and sometimes even the loss of life. And while we here feel so very fortunate to be spared from loss, at the same time our hearts ache for those who suffer. We wonder why; we want to help. Now that we are back to school, we find that many students are aware of others’ needs and they too want to understand and help.
It seems that the past two weeks have brought more than a regular amount of bad news for our children to understand and interpret. Before the Hurricane, last week we mourned the loss of one of our school alumni – Matt Glass, a college student in Philadelphia. Some students knew his brother Jacob who worked in our Extended Day program or knew the family from their long-term affiliation with the school. Students shared memories and reflected on the family’s loss and sadness. Earlier, the Gloucester County community was horrified to learn of the murder of young Autumn Pasquale in Clayton, NJ. And while many in the FSMH community did not know her personally, again our students internalized and struggled to process the information circulating on the news. It is hard for us as adults to understand and even harder for children.
Experts remind us during these times to continue to talk to our children – making sure they feel safe in sharing their feelings and fears. Keep to regular routines when possible, helping children to feel normal and safe in their surroundings. Here at FSMH, over the past two weeks we’ve fielded many questions from students, provided hugs and a listening ear when necessary and with the older middle school students, encouraged conversation about difficult topics when appropriate. Our continual focus as a school community on service learning helps to provide regular opportunities for students to step out of their world for a moment and to provide help to others in need. Whether it is raising money for cancer patients through Alex’s Lemonade Stand, organizing box lunches for students in need or sharing in a walk with the ARC community, these examples further develop empathy among children. They understand that others have lives different from their own, sometimes with more hardship.
While in the news there are a multitude of opportunities to help the community these days, please note that our 5th graders are currently collecting non-perishable goods through the Box Lunch Project for Gloucester County students who may not receive meals during the Thanksgiving school break. T. Shaner is also collecting donations of clothing and blankets for Atlantic City residents devastated by the hurricane. Helping others during these times can aid in understanding that while bad things do happen, we can each be a light of goodness.