A few weeks ago, I read the book Wonder by R. J. Palacio --- It's been on the NY Times Bestseller list for a while now, and it's a story of a boy in middle school with a physical deformity who is mistreated and bullied by his classmates.
I recommended this book to some friends of mine who teach in public schools, as a tool they could use to broach the topic of bullying. They know that I work at a Christian school, so they asked me how I address the issue. I shared that this year we've intentionally centered our chapel messages around the theme of friendship. One of my friends quipped, "Well, you can talk about that at any school." To which I replied, "You're right, but in my school I can remind students that their fellow classmates are created in God's image, and as such are valuable, priceless works of art. Through these chapel talks, I'm hoping the children will come to understand that if they are friends with Jesus, they can be friends with anyone." You can't say that 'at any school', but I can speak this truth to their hearts because I work at CCS.
At CCS, I have the privilege of seeing God work through childhood friendships. One of our new students this year came to us from a public school where he was severely bullied. And if you ever met him, you would know why. Kids can be cruel to those who are a little bit different. Knowing all this, I was a little nervous about this year. How would our kids respond? Would they be kind to him? Would they be patient?
At recess one day during the first week of school, I observed three 7th grade girls reach out to him and invite him to play a game of tag. Because they did that, other students started reaching out to him. They didn't know the backstory, they didn't know how he had been treated at his old school, but I knew.
To see God redeem a bad situation, to see a child once bullied now accepted and loved, to see the Holy Spirit work in the heart of 7th grade girls, to see them be moved with compassion for a third grade student, to know that God cares about little children and what happens on the playground and is intimately involved in the details of life is a blessing that is being fostered at CCS.
When I was in graduate school, we took a field trip to Google Headquarters in NYC, and our assignment was to investigate their culture --- the artifacts, the behaviors, the values that make Google a great organization. We took the time to experience their culture because we know that great organizations don't happen by accident. It's all intentional. The way people interact with each other and treat each other is a reflection of an organization's culture.
What do we do every day at CCS? We create culture --- a culture that is very different from any other educational institution, a culture where the strong look out for the weak, a culture where children are encouraged to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, a culture where children learn what it means to be a friend, a culture where children can be friends with someone who is a little different, a culture where children are encouraged to rest in their friendship with Jesus.