I’ve had a lot of endings in the past couple of weeks. So many so that I’m starting to wish I’d taken out stock in a tissue company.
Some endings have been good. My eldest daughter finished high school. My youngest daughter has finished primary school.
Some have been bittersweet. With my youngest daughter finishing primary school, it ends my association with her school that has gone back eleven years. I have been on the parent committee there, was the president of the parent committee for a while, was the school board chair for a few years and have supported the school through organising community fun runs, fete stalls, fundraising dinners, community welcome functions and school discos. I was also instrumental in helping keep the school open and running as a bilingual school when the local government wanted to close it down. For the past eleven years, the school has been a very important part of my life and almost all of my closest friendships in Canberra have been made with others who had some role at the school, whether they were teachers or other parents.
One ending this week has been particularly difficult for me. The former principal at the primary school died Tuesday morning after a long, long battle with cancer. She and I worked very closely together for two years when she first came to the school and over that time, became good friends. She even dog-sat Reg for me and they always had a soft spot for each other.
There are very few people in this world who touch those they come in contact with like she did. It was almost like she knew she wasn’t going to have a long life and needed to make up for it with every interaction, every comment, every thought she had.
Her accomplishments were many, but of all the things she taught me (and her students and the rest of the community), the FISH philosophy will stick with me forever. She didn’t create the FISH philosophy but she lived it, every single day.
If you don’t know the FISH philosophy, it’s four tenets are:
- Be there
- Choose your attitude
- Make someone’s day
She introduced this philosophy to all the children at the school, but it wasn’t long before everyone – teachers and parents included – were using it and trying to emulate her. It raised the bar at the school and put a reference on positive behaviours and helping each other out that I think many leaders in our world would do well to follow.
Be there. Be present. Be where you are. At school, be ready to learn. At work, be ready to participate and create. Be in the moment with whomever you are with. Give your 100% attention to the task at hand.
Choose your attitude. Everything in life is a choice. You can choose to be negative or be positive. You can choose an attitude to get things done and to make your world a better place to be, for you and for those who are around you. You alone can make that choice each and every minute, hour, day.
Make someone’s day. You don’t have to buy expensive gifts. Do something nice for someone else. Something unexpected. The other day I had a complete stranger tell me I looked fabulous. It made my day and I carried that feeling around all day with me. I look around for opportunities to do the same to others. Whether that’s paying it forward and buying someone a coffee, giving a compliment, or recognising that quiet achievement someone has been working on for a while.
Play. This is important at primary school, but really, it’s oh so important in life. We have play time or recess at school and we should have recess at work too. Not to run errands or sit at our desks to eat our lunch. But to get outside. Enjoy nature. Read a book. Go for a walk. Clear our heads. We are more productive when we’ve had a play break and done something fun for ourselves each day. More and more people aren’t taking their holiday or vacation time and saving it for later. Why? We are built for play. We should be demanding more holiday time! The more play we do, the more productive and creative we are as human beings.
It’s not a difficult philosophy to follow. It’s so easy, a five year old grasps it. So it should be easy for the rest of us too. And life would be better for all of us if we did.
Right now many things in my life are ending. It’s getting close to the end of the year and it’s always a time for endings and reflection. But I know that with endings come beginnings. It’s that whole life/death/life cycle. Everything around us in this world is somewhere in this cycle. Things have to end for new things to begin. My children are growing up and both moving to new schools next year. I leave behind the involvement with their primary school, but take the friends I have made throughout the years with me. And on Friday, I will weep at a funeral for the world has lost a beautiful spark of light, but I know my friend will live on in every child and every person who lives her philosophy.
I can’t think of a better way to honour her memory as I continue my own life journey and encounter new beginnings.