The world seems to have raced ahead whilst we were on our half-term break: the country is gearing up for a(nother) general election; a spate of leg-related injuries has played havoc with the formatting of Strictly; BST came to end and we are back with old faithful GMT; and Miss Gilchrist now has bragging rights around the staff rooms following South Africa’s World Cup glory. Whatever the headlines from your half-term, I hope you enjoyed some family time and a bit of R and R.
In Headmaster’s Assembly on Monday we spoke about, perhaps predictably, bonfire night. In particular, we focused on fireworks. We learned that they were invented in China and packaged and pioneered by the Italians; we learnt that the record (set in Plymouth) for rockets being set off consecutively is 56,000; and we learned that in Zurich in 2002 a 3-metre-high chocolate firework was launched – and that it weighed a whopping 60kg. I said to the pupils that there were three types of firework/flame that I wanted to focus on that morning….
First up was the mighty rocket. This is the big one: the exciting explosive that goes up with an almighty whoosh; which screams into the sky; which bursts into a million stars and hundreds of bright colours; which explodes with a massive bang and which lights up the night sky for all to see. The rocket grabs out attention immediately: we ooh and ahh; it delights us. But then it’s over. For all of its excitement, noise and brilliance, it doesn’t last very long.
Then there was the sparkler. Who doesn’t love a sparkler? We hold them much closer to us, of course and we marvel at the flying sparks and exciting colours. We play around with them, making shapes and whizzing our glittering names through the darkness. They fizz and crackle; we delight in them and they make us giggle. They are a lot smaller and a lot quieter than a rocket, but they are still loads of fun. Of course, they last a good deal longer than a rocket, too – but they are fairly soon extinguished; the fun and entertainment soon dies away.
And then there’s the plain old candle – just a simple, single flame. No noise, no excitement, no bright colours, no big explosion, no oohs and ahhs, no playing and laughing. But always there; always burning. If you light a candle, it ain’t going out any time soon; that light sticks with you for ages – in the cases of some candles (and there’s one in the cathedral somewhere) – forever. We took a look at the candle we had lit a few moments earlier – as we do at the start of every Monday Assembly. We thought that, if it were the middle of the night and the cathedral were in total darkness, we would still see this little flame right at the other end of the cathedral. Wherever we were to stand in the building we would know that the candle was burning; we’d see the flickering and the glimmering on the pillars and in the vaulted ceiling.
Which one of these three do we want to be, I asked the School. And which one of these three do we want in our lives? Think of them as friendship, think of them as love, as Jesus, as help, as enthusiasm – take your pick – which type of light would we want? The big bright brash explosion that’s exciting but over in a matter of seconds? The glittery and sparkly one that’s super fun but which soon fizzles out? Or the constant slow-burner; the calm, gentle, unassuming flame that lasts forever?
I asked the pupils to undertake to be a candle for others: just be there, quietly, always – for when someone looks to you in their moment of darkness. You’ll be needed, you’ll be noticed, and you will change someone’s world.