This question was put to us by our new president at last week’s staff meeting. This is a good question to ask ourselves from time to time, not only for our work but for life in general. Most places of work are guided by some kind of mission statement and this question was designed to get us to also reflect on why we exist as an institution and how our role contributes to that overall mission.

We did not have much time to write and I did not keep a copy but as I reflected on it later it came to me what I should have written. The answer had been given to me a few days earlier before the question was even asked. The answer was given to me by Bill [see blogs from last year] on the bike path [where most of my good insights happen].

Bill and I had not met for a few weeks over Christmas break and so the first meeting we took some extra time to catch up with what had been happening in our community and our world. We talked about the new, ugly, and unnecessary gates on the trail and eventually about the school shooting in Connecticut. I was a bit confused [not unusual in our conversations] as he bragged about all the guns he had shot when he was in the army while at the same time railing against the gun obsession in the USA. As I was thinking we had talked long enough, wished him a good day and started to pick up speed, he yelled his parting nugget of teaching advice after me [as he usually does]. “Make sure you teach them to have some compassion for the other guy.”

That’s it! I could come up with all sorts of fancily worded mission statements but if there is anything I want my students to graduate with, it is compassion for the other. Everything else is secondary.