Don’t pay back, pay forward

The main corridor outside my office has traditionally been the place for images of what we value to be displayed. We give a good deal of thought to the pictures which have pride of place there, because we know there will be some implicit messages. So, North Entrance has the honours boards for the top academic achievements of the previous years, because they are front and centre of what we are about; the sports centre honours achievements in the same way, and photographs and displays in the PAC focus on the performing arts. Along this main corridor we show inspiring visitors who have we hope motivated the boys, and students who have done something to admire. One such group last year was the team who won a Wings of Hope (WOH) award, and it was fantastic this week to celebrate another team, this year’s award winners, of Jack Harrison, Max Hughes, Scott Kendrick, Arjun Gobiraj and Will Hughes. Despite the challenges of lockdown, they raised a significant sum for this superb charity, and spoke to Monday’s assembly about it all.

One of the points of WOH is that you don’t just raise or give money, you have to plan as a team how you are going to do it, and why. Part of this planning has always been coping with adversity, things not going as the were meant to, and of course this year’s team had more challenges than anyone had thought: pretty much all the activities which would normally raise money couldn’t happen. But they still got things done.

We talk about legacy a lot. Through Mr Cresswell, our School Captain team have indeed been reading the excellent book ‘Legacy’ about the All Blacks and their culture of humility … and of ‘giving back’.  It’s often referred to of course, but important to get right: the fact that one has been given a gift (in the case of Whitgiftians their education) should not mean shame or reluctance. On the contrary: accept it with both hands. And it’s not so much that we should think of giving back, with all the overtones of repaying debt, but that we should give forwards. In other words, giving (‘paying’) back just cancels a debt. Giving forward means taking a gift and making the world better for those who come after.

Our WOH boys, like so many others, are practising paying forward: not just putting coins in a box (important though that is) but working with what they have to improve life for others, doing things only they can do. Well done for setting that example for us all to follow.