The Gift of Your Best Self

As we find ourselves in the midst of Christmas break, I hope the entire Romero Family is finding the time to reflect on the true meaning of the season. I know that time is precious and thus it can be a challenge to find the solace to pause and look inward as you navigate the hectic nature of life. Perhaps, you’re a teenager working odd hours during the holidays, a parent being pulled in multiple directions or a teacher who isn’t really taking a break at all. Nonetheless, this time of year can be quite overwhelming.

This is all to say that at times we can easily lose the true meaning of Christmas. I know that I’m guilty of this. I can become consumed by the commercial aspect of the season, where no one gift is enough. With, buying for others I have to remind myself that less can be more. In fact, just yesterday, I had a conversation with my 8 yr old son, who militantly proclaimed that there weren’t enough presents under the tree. Let alone reminding him that Santa still hasn’t arrived, I went into Dad-VP lecture mode and scorned him for a shallowness I was guilty of as a child – and at times as an adult. I reminded him that, we’re so blessed to have in so many ways. I equally cautioned him that in having, it’s easy to become absorbed with wants rather than what really matters.

Thus, as Christmas Eve approaches, it’s important to remember that while your celebration maybe joyous, others may be suffering in their own way. With this, love is essential as we’re reminded that the birth of Jesus, is truly about the giving of self and not material. With his birth, we’re called to give the gift of our best selves.

Our goodness, love, potential and shared responsibility is what Christmas is truly about. It’s about who we are and the promise of who God calls us to be. As the classic Charles Dicken’s story A Christmas Carol illustrates, goodness is the greatest of all gifts. As Scrooge transforms into his truest self, he realizes that the spirit of Christmas is found everyday of the year. He is called to share his “Christmas Offering,” of being what God intends him to be. He embarks on a new journey of self and discovery.

Below I’ve shared my favourite film adaptation of Dicken’s tale of hollowness turned into warmth. As you watch, reflect on who Scrooge is and what Jesus calls him to be. Equally, reflect on your own “Christmas Offering” and how you can give the gift of goodness.

With this, I wish you all a blessed Christmas and a New Year defined by the giving of your best self.

The Gifts I Bring to Canada

When the students were first presented with the idea of entering a competition that would focus on their gifts, they showed little interest. They didn’t welcome having a camera pointed at them, nor did they think they could finish the sentence “My gift is…”. After brainstorming possible talents, they were able to identify with some examples and create “I”-statements to express their gifts. This exercise of self-analysis and taking personal inventory, which they rejected and considered intimidating at first, gave the students a sense of confidence and empowerment which will influence their ability to take risks in language learning – to voice their ideas and attempt assignments that may seem difficult – and actively participate in a new community. 

This video competition also gave the newcomer students the opportunity to build community within the class and beyond. New to the country, province, city, and school, these students have had few opportunities to interact, and so this project created an environment where they learned more about each other – their interests and their languages – and encouraged each other to take risks. The collaboration with Mr. Perrotta, Vice Principal, in creating the video furthered these students’ sense of recognition. Therefore, in addition to the literal experience of seeing each other’s faces, the students felt seen – by themselves, their school, and the greater TCDSB community.

Romero Visionaries Presents…

Firstly, let me just start by stating that I’m by no means a health professional. Rather, I’m a curious teen who like so many teenagers, has been navigating the complexities of COVID. From adults to teens and younger children, people around the world have been adversely affected by COVID-19. These past 17 months have been extremely difficult and as we look to hope and normalcy, the adverse effects cannot be ignored.

From my perspective, when the issue of mental health and wellbeing arises in a conversation, teens are often overlooked. If and when, we are given the chance to speak our minds, we are either misunderstood or not taken as seriously as we should be. With all of this in mind, it’s important to highlight the mental struggles that teenagers are going through, thoroughly address them, and to provide teens with the tools to work through the challenges they are facing. Change is happening. Real systematic change is needed.

Looking beyond COVID, teenagers were already quite vulnerable. In other words, being a teenager was hard to begin with. Adults have shared with me that being a teenager was the most difficult years of their life. Frankly, I can completely understand this. It’s not easy being a teenager.  You are faced with so many new realities that didn’t exist in early childhood or adolescence.

For starters, there are the pressures to conform to the standards and expectations of the world, your friends, and your family. Then, there is the idea of having to discover who you are and who you want to become in a short time span. Not to mention, there’s school, home, and other responsibilities that weigh on your shoulders. On top of this, you have to navigate emotions that are completely new to you. I myself can attest that the list can just go on and on from here.

Add a world-wide pandemic to being a teenager just further complicates things.

For the adults reading this:

Imagine being a teenager in March 2020. The world stopped. We went from a two week extended March Break to now 17 months of COVID impacted schooling. All things online added to an already stressful situation as did seeing real world realities unfold on social media while living in isolation. From COVID deaths to social and racial injustices taking place, the world seemed to be burning.

The cumulative effect of all of those factors have been debilitating in many ways for teenagers. Mental health has deteriorated and we can’t pretend that everything in just fine. For there to be positive change there must be a shift that promotes Mental Wellness everyday of the year.

Fortunately, for us at Romero we are a community with supports and so many adults who deeply care. Also, The Toronto Catholic District School Board takes mental health and well-being very seriously and has a number of supports available as found here: Student Mental Health Resources

Looking ahead, let’s remember to take care of one another in our daily interactions. So, remember to be kind, listen, pause, find balance and importantly ask for help if needed.

Thanks for reading,

Melissa

Car Wash For Terry

On Friday, October 15th students from St Oscar Romero’s GLE course were living a life of service all while developing their leadership, collaboration and communication skills by raising funds for the Terry Fox Foundation.  

With students rolling up their sleeves and doing the hard work necessary, over two-hundred dollars was raised. Importantly, the students involved felt immense pride in their service and truly fulfilled in working together towards a common goal.

The entire school community is so proud of the students as they continuously demonstrate their leadership ability.

Importantly, big time thanks goes to school CYW, Mr. Carlo Cassano for his endless inspiration, guidance, support and transformational contributions to the Romero Family school community.