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Finding the courage to be kind

Finding the courage to be kind
Finding the courage to be kind

After student orientation last week, Upper School Director Frances Fondren-Bales walked through the Bullard Bright IDEA lab reading sticky notes left on the walls by 9th grade students. One brightly colored note caught her eye.

In bubbled handwriting, a paraphrased quote by the “great philosopher (singer, songwriter, performer, and all-around amazing human being) Taylor Swift'' was written: “Never be so polite, you forget your power. Never wield such power, you forget to be kind.”

Kind. As she reread the note, Ms. Fondren-Bales paused and smiled. With this one-word modification to Taylor Swift’s lyrics, the freshmen class identified an often-overlooked leadership quality — one crucial to effectively leading a community.

A few days later, Ms. Fondren-Bales stood at the podium during Opening Convocation and shared that story with the more than 720 students who filled the Frances Bond Davis Theatre. “There is strength in kindness,” she said.

Opening Convocation represents the start of a new year full of opportunities and possibilities. New girls join Honeybear Nation, new students step up to be leaders, and members of a new senior class embrace the challenge of inspiring their peers. It all begins as seniors race down the aisles of the theatre waving checkered flags to announce their senior theme, which this year is Pedal to the Floor in 2024.

For these seniors, this year — and what lies beyond — is a journey toward new experiences. Senior Student Council president Josephine Hinds is ready to enjoy every minute of the senior class’ last ride together. To her classmates, she offered some words of wisdom. Even though the senior theme is about going fast, she encouraged the seniors to slow down to soak up the beautiful moments together. She reminded them to refuel when they are running on empty, reassess when they hit a bump or a roadblock, trust themselves behind the wheel of their futures, and not be afraid to drive into the unknown.

“…You prepare for what you can,” she said. “And know that after that, there is nothing else you can do except sit back and enjoy the ride.”

Students took this message to heart throughout the first day back under the Harpeth Hall magnolias. From the high fives new 5th grade students gave Harpeth Hall’s mascot, Honey, before walking through the doors of the middle school for the first time to the cheers two juniors gave each other across the Souby Lawn, the joy and expectations of a new school year filled the air.

“We start this year in great hopes of the achievements, accomplishments, and accolades that are announced in a meeting and written on a resume,” 8th

grade student convocation speaker Frances Brown said while reflecting on the coming year. “But the real growth and strength and joy this year and all years will come from ... the privilege of knowing, caring for, and celebrating one another.”

And with that care and kindness comes courage. In her eight years as a middle school leader, interim director Mary Lea Bryant has seen Harpeth Hall students demonstrate this bravery daily.

“Where have I seen courage for kindness on our campus?” Ms. Bryant asked while addressing students. “Girls sticking up for other girls when someone is treated unfairly; being the first person to clap for a student who has just performed or made a speech; a student recognizing that someone in the room is alone and not knowing her, goes to speak and to include her.”

That strength, Head of School Jess Hill said, is in every student at Harpeth Hall.

“There is one thing that seems to be universally true,” Head of School Jess Hill said in her remarks to bright young faces that sat in the theatre on that first day. “The ‘smartest person in the room is most often the kindest person in the room.’ I believe everyone in this room has the capacity to be kind. It sometimes takes practice, but kindness seems to be a scarce resource in today’s world. Harpeth Hall girls can help supply it.”