Empower, Empower, Empower!
Don’t let yourself do it! At the end of every school year there are traps and time bombs all around us. The closing of each school year often brings with it a sense of tip toeing across a minefield as there is potential danger in every direction we take.
We do not have to allow ourselves to fall into this trap. It’s up to us with how we choose to respond.
I want to share a great story I heard a couple of years ago in a Ted Talk given by Charles Hazlewood, a composer, broadcaster, and musical director. During his Ted Talk, Charles shares a story that holds enormous significance and is an excellent metaphor for the need to stay motivated, passionate, and to ensure that we always empower ourselves and others around us.
A couple centuries ago, there was a Hungarian prince named Prince Nikolaus Esterházy. The prince came from an extremely powerful family that had ruled a kingdom in a certain region of Europe for decades. Being powerful brought numerous advantages to the prince’s life. As he had a love of music, the family employed a prominant and prolific Austrian composer, Joseph Haydn, to be of service to the prince. Along with Haydn came his 16 orchestral musicians and their main responsiblity was to provide music for the prince whenever he wished. The families of the orchestral musicians were allowed to live on the grounds of Esterhazy’s palace.
Esterhazy also owned a summer palace that he loved to visit several times throughout the year and whenever the prince decided it was time to go to this palace, he demanded that Haydn and the orchestral musicians accompany him. Along with them always came their families on these long trips.
One day, out of the blue, Prince Esterhazy decided that he could no longer tolerate the families of the orchestral musicians living on the palace grounds. He made the decision to send them off to live on their own far away. This caused great distress as the orchestral musicians would be separated from their loved ones for months at a time.
Despite numerous attempts by Haydn and others to change the mind of Esterhazy, the prince was unbending and simply refused to listen.
The Farewell Symphony
Haydn devised a clever plan to prick at the consciousness of the prince and did so by creating a beautiful score called the ‘Farewell Symphony’.
In the darkness of the summer night, Haydn and his orchestral musicians performed the score for Esterhazy. Imagine a lit candle placed in front of each musician as they played the score for the prince. Haydn and his team played on, but as they came to the final part of the score, each group of musicians; the woodwinds, brass, percussion, and strings within the orchestra had a task.
Picture in your mind the woodwind group standing up and playing their final piece, quietly letting their music fade away to completion. As they completed their part, they bent over, blew their candle out and walked away into the darkness. Brass and percussion followed suit, completing their parts then bending over to blow their candle out and walk away into the darkness of the night. In the end, only one violinist remained. Upon completing her part, the last candle was blown out and she herself walked away into the darkness. The music had literally whithered away and died. Where there is no light, there is no music.
The Farewell Symphony had struck at the core of Esterhazy’s consciousness, moving him to realize that his decision to send the families of the orchestral musicians away had caused great pain. He immediately reversed his decision and the families and musicians were reunited. The music played on and all were once again happy.
Charles Hazlewood tells this story to illustrate a very important point. Regardless of what we do in life we need to keep our candles of inspiration, hope and passion lit. We are also responsible for helping to keep the candles of those around us lit. This is accomplished through choosing thoughts, actions, words, and behavior that are empowering in nature.
There is no greater place for this than within the walls of our schools. Whether you are a teacher, administrator, or student, the culture that is created within a school must be firmly rooted in the seeds of empowerment. And it's mindfulness that plays a pivotal role in providing all stakeholders in an organization the necessary tools to help empower themselves and others around them.
Even with a culture of mindfulness and empowerment, there will still be disagreements, tension, conflict, and difficult moments. As my wife, Neila Steele, often shares during her workshops and presentations, mindfulness allows us to respond in more caring and compassionate ways, rather than reacting in a knee jerk fashion, lashing out unnecessarily at those around us.
The end of the school year does not have to be an excuse for tempers to flare and patience wearing so thin that relationships within the school disintegrate and fall apart. We are all in control of how we choose to respond. Give yourself the quiet time and reflective space needed to better understand that with each day comes challenge, but embedded in our journeys are golden opportunities to empower ourselves and those around us. We cannot let our own light or the light of others whither away and die. We all have equal responsibility in ensuring that this does not happen and to be much more aware of the thoughts, actions, words, and behaviour that we choose to put into action. Thanks for reading. I've added a link to the Farewell Symphony below if you are interested in listening to it.