After work each day it has become my evening ritual to take my two year old cavoodle, Benny, for a leisurely stroll around our neighbourhood. This routine gives me an opportunity to slowly unwind from the day and for both Benny and I to connect with our neighbours. I especially enjoy seeing the children in our little community playing outside and I am often amused by the intensity with which they engage in their various games and activities.
Last week as Benny and I rounded one particular street corner we came across 3 primary school aged boys playing a makeshift game of footy in their front yard. The obvious likeness between the boys led me to infer they were brothers, and this thought was confirmed as I got closer. “That’s not fair, I am going to tell Mum!” shrieked the youngest of the trio. The older of the other two boys quickly interjected “No, don’t tell Mum. Come back here, we can work it out”. What followed was a series of passionate negotiations around the rules of the game, the location of the sideline and the width of the all-important try line. The process was far from seamless. Voices were raised, fingers were pointed, pot plants were moved, small bushes were given consideration and then compensation made accordingly by widening the corresponding try line. After the coloured plastic markers had been adjusted several times, acceptance was reached and the game resumed.
As I continued my walk I reflected on the significance of what I had just observed. These young boys were taking part in what they considered to be “high stakes” negotiations and more importantly, they had succeeded in reaching a consensus without having to call for external arbitration, aka Mum. As a mother myself I am sure she would have been both pleased and relieved not to be summoned outside to adjudicate their squabbles. On the contrary, I actually think if she had been eavesdropping on the conversation, just as I had been, she would have been proud of them. Proud because her boys were not only outside in the fresh air developing their football skills and physical fitness but also their skills in communication, creativity, negotiation, teamwork, and resilience. It is often in these unstructured and unplanned moments that if we as adults sit back and allow our kids the time and space to “work it out” for themselves we will see them shine.
One of the key missions of our College is to develop leaders. While training our students in leadership, we encourage them to recognise that being a leader doesn’t mean that you always get your way. In fact one of the hallmarks of great leaders is their ability to take a situation where there is the potential for great conflict and patiently work alongside those involved to explore and evaluate options and find a satisfactory resolution. This usually involves give and take on both sides and the ability to set aside the quest for personal gain in pursuit of the collective good.
This week we have ten of our Year 10 & 11 student leaders who right now are putting their leadership skills into action on the Darwin Mission Trip. In conjunction with Scripture Union, these students will be running Kids Games, a holiday program for primary school children based at Marrara College. They will spend a week together planning and facilitating physical activities as well as devotions and prayer times. Like the Cedars student leaders who have gone before them, these students will undoubtedly be confronted with opportunities to develop resilience, to demonstrate teamwork and the ability to negotiate differences of opinion. And in doing so, they too will have the opportunity to shine and in this we can all be very proud.