Director of Ethical Education Blog
“We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results”
I am in possession of an artist's heart. I find it hard to even get dressed in the morning without expressing my individuality and mood thru my outfit choice. I arrange the food on my plate as if it were a painting and parent like a sculptor, trying to mold the raw clay into a something beautiful and unique. My favorite medium is fiber. I will weave yarn into clothing, reeds into baskets, and guitar strings into melodies. As I sat in attendance at the Spring Festival this weekend, my mind kept thinking of the word INTERCONNECTION. Everything that I was observing reminded me of Herman Melville's quote that states our lives are all connected and what energy we send out into the world comes back to us. The energy at Sunday's Spring Festival could not have been more positive. The theme was CREATIVITY and our society connects us with many talented members who exhibited their creative spirit for everyone to enjoy.
Several individuals displayed their art and spoke of its personal significance. It takes courage to get in front of a crowd and share something so deeply personal. But with great risk comes great reward and we all grow closer to one other in the moments when we are vulnerable. When we are willing to dance, sing, speak, read and share in front of a crowd. Our society is filled with wonderful people who could not be more supportive and encouraging towards our members young and old who are willing to put themselves out there. Our society connects us to people who will join together to show fellowship and acceptance to one another.
Our unique geographical location affords us the opportunity to make a wide impact with our good deeds. Spring Festival marked the culmination of a Youth-led Conservation Service Project. We raffled off the milkweed seeds that were planted and nurtured by our Sunday School students over the past 3 weeks. The Sunday School learned in class about how we are interconnected to our environment. They discussed what is causing the decimation of pollinating insects and how its effects will be felt at our kitchen tables when we no longer have certain foods available to eat. Six lucky winners were able to take home a milkweed seedling from the festival to plant in their yard in order to assist in habitat restoration for our insect pollinators. Because our members live across several states in the Mid-Atlantic region, our conservation efforts can reach far and wide. Our society connects us to people who share our passion for taking care of our planet and all of its inhabitants.
Tradition also weaves our lives together. And Sunday's March of the Turtles and Snails was a prime example of this. Children in the Special Places class are taught a hands-on curriculum that explores basic needs, comfort, homes, and community. The class is taught through stories and the building of various homes. One of those homes are the shells of turtles and snails and the children get very excited about building their own cardboard shells and performing a small skit for the society. Especially touching this year was that two graduates of the Sunday School program were in attendance and shared their own happy memories of when they took this class and marched across the stage to Raffi's song “Slow Day”. Our society connects us to people who help us mark the passage of time thru the traditions we share.
This society connects us and I am so blessed to be a member of a diverse group of individuals that come together for fellowship, social action, community and expression.
Spring is Coming! Daylight Savings Time went into effect last Sunday and the sun stays up longer in the evenings. My daffodils are blooming and the trees are budding. The robins with their big red, round & egg laiden bellys are gathering worms and building their nests. The whole world is preparing to awaken from its winter slumber. I love this time of year because it's so exciting to see everything “Spring” to life! This seasonal change is what inspired two of our youth to plan a Butterfly Conservation project for the Sunday School this March.
Please see below a Guest Blog from NoVES teens, Ananda Kalukin & Noah Crook:
Spring is fast approaching, and so are the millions of pollinators that call our region home at this time of year. These pollinators are responsible for feeding the world through pollination, and are integral parts of every ecosystem. However, many of these pollinators are dying off and it is critical that humanity prevents them from going extinct. We decided to come up with a Sunday School project in keeping with this time of growth and that would help, in some small way, these imperiled pollinators.
On March 18th, the students of the NoVES Sunday School will participate in a planting session. Each student will plant pollinator-friendly seeds in a pot, and then take the pot home. They will then raise the seeds until April 8th.
At Spring Festival, on April 8th, the students will bring back the seedlings and we will raffle them off to lucky NoVES attendees! If you receive seedlings, plant them outdoors so pollinators will have access to them.
With the help of an Ethical Society member, we have also chosen the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy for our charitable contribution. The LWC leads field trips and programs to educate people about conservation. They also provide citizen science data to various organizations to keep track of the health of Loudoun County Wildlife. The organization also participates in habitat restoration projects.
We will be supporting The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy through the Sharing of Responsibility at Spring Festival. Learn more about this organization's work here: https://loudounwildlife.org/habitat-restoration/bringing-back-monarch/
Tomorrow marks my 1st month on the job as your Director of Ethical Education. This month I have been settling into the rhythm of things. Remembering to lock the classroom doors, creating email distribution lists, brainstorming ideas and collecting some fresh paperwork from our Sunday School parents. I also took a day to visit our gone but never forgotten previous DEE and current member, Melissa Sinclair. Melissa and I had lunch and the Washington Ethical Society allowed me to sit in on some of their internal staff meetings. I guess you could say, my feet are officially wet!
In addition to the administrative side of this position, I will be scheduling some future events and workshops for our society families. Most imminent, I have arranged a group rate for us to attend the Cirque Du Soleil LUZIA show in Tysons Corner on May 6th. You can register to attend here: https://noves.org/event-2845795 Further into the future, I have been in contact with Rachel Bailey, a local parenting expert whose web class Tom and I took a couple of years ago. I found her program to be be exactly what our family needed and her approach was one of loving, self-esteem building guidance for our children, as opposed to shaming, yelling & corporal punishment. Her tactics are framed for the parent-child relationship, but her tools and tricks can help you navigate spousal relationships, grandparent-grandchild relationships, even platonic friendships. As I explained to her, “Rachel, you taught me how to make my son FEEL loved, not just BE loved” She has agreed to give a platform to NOVES in the beginning of our 2018-2019 society year and will follow it up with a 90 minute in-depth Saturday workshop. I am looking to assemble a team to pull off this large Adult Education class. If you are interested, please contact me or Jaime Argandona directly. I am hoping to take our assembled committee to see one of her other talks in the county this Spring before we begin to plan our own Fall Workshop. Please peruse her website and reach out to me if you can help. http://rachel-bailey.com/about/
Finally, I am pleased to report that our Sunday School Acts of Service are in full swing. After we completed the Kakenya's Valentine Project in early February, we moved onto holding a small Orange Ribbon Party for the Love Your Neighbor Campaign. The platform that Sunday was entitled, “What Being an American Means to Me”. We also had a new student join our Sunday School program that day who moved here all the way from Puerto Rico! Welcome to NOVES Amalia!! To reinforce the message of inclusion and acceptance to people of every race, creed, lifestyle and ability, our kids spent a few minutes before their classes making orange ribbons to tie on their mailboxes and wear on their shirts as a visual symbol of unity and equality. A table was set up after platform for the adult members to participate in the party too! If you wish to learn more about this grassroots movement, join me at an event this Monday, March 5th in Leesburg, VA. Congr. Barbara Comstock and Atty. Gen. Mark Herring will be speaking. The event details can be found here: https://noves.org/event-2845622 The Sunday School Service Project for March has been placed in the hands of two of our teen youth. They have come up with a great concept and I will be sharing more details in a future blog post. Also, mark your calendars because our annual Stream Cleanup at the Ballanderson's is scheduled for April 22nd. Our NOVES kids are exemplifying the message of Deed Before Creed this Spring!
Stay Tuned to this blog for more updates on what is happening with the youth of the Northern Virginia Ethical Society.
I'd like to begin this post by taking a moment to thank everyone in our NOVES family for their voracious support of my hiring as the new Director of Ethical Education. I have received so many words of encouragement, congratulations and validation since the announcement was made at Winter Festival. Many of you took the time to personally congratulate me face to face, via email and by telephone. Your collective enthusiasm inspires me to do my very best for our kids!
My first official task as the DEE was to undertake the the Sunday School Service Project for February by creating and selling Valentines to benefit the Kakenya Center for Excellence. This project has been a tradition at NOVES for several years. Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya has previously spoken at NOVES about her dream and hopefully she will join us again in the future to share how she is seeing her dream become a reality. You can learn more about this organization here: https://www.kakenyasdream.org/our-work/
Step one in executing this service project was to have the kids create the art needed for the Valentines. After watching a video on the KCE and discussing the students thoughts and reactions, everyone settled down to draw. However, unbeknownst to me, there was a hidden gift awaiting me that day. I asked the children if they would like some background music and the room was unanimous: “only if its Imagine Dragons!” As I sat back and watched them work, they all began to softly sing together. Little voices lilting across the room and singing a song about believing in yourself and trusting that adversity makes you stronger. I will always smile to myself when I remember my “first day on the job” and being serenaded by the children of NOVES! The positivity of that day permeated the entire project. The members of NOVES were generous in their support of this service project and the Sunday School Valentines sale raised $228.00 for its charity. In addition, $332.00 was collected during the Sharing of Responsibility, bringing the total to $560.00 dollars raised for Kakenya's school!
I would like to close my first blog entry by thanking all of the people who have kept the Sunday School thriving despite not having a Director in place. Our teachers Iris, Heather W, Patrick, Julien, Kelly and Jaime are engaging and educating our kids every week. And the Sunday School Committee has kept this ship on course for over 6 months without a Captain! Thank you Heather W, Heather M, Marian, Jeff, and Randy.
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