Today, my husband began his last year at Girard College. This would be a happy event, were it not for the fact that *his* Girard College, the school where has worked for 40 years, and which has been educating orphaned and poor children for 165 years, is closing in June.
Yes, "officially" Girard College will remain open- but only as a day school, grade school. This, to me, is a true abandonment of the children Stephen Girard established the school to serve. This is the most egregious violation of his will, ever.
I truly believe, and always have, that Citizen Girard (the title "citizen" being the one he MOST valued) would have had no complaints about who the children were who attended his school- his will, and its wording, were a product of his time and experience, and only that.
However, his will was very clear that his school was to be a home and a refuge for its students, and now his college is violating that trust.
It is, for me, a heartbreaking finish to the 40 years that my husband has dedicated to Stephen Girard's children. With the closing of the high school and the dormitories, Girard's dream for his children (for so all Girard College students were considered) is ending. It is incredibly painful and traumatic to see your life's work dismantled.
Looking back on the closure of Cardinal Dougherty, my teaching home and my husband's alma mater, makes this year at Girard doubly painful for both of us. I wish we could have afforded for him to retire before this- living through this ending is already terrible and can only get worse. I remember, too well, the pain experienced by those men and women who had spent their entire careers at Cardinal Dougherty.
I pray for the Girard community. I pray for the children who will be forced out of their home, and into new and strange schools. I pray for those who will now never receive a Girard diploma. I pray for the teachers, houseparents and staff who will be losing their jobs. I pray for the teachers who must go through this year of pain and trauma, and while experiencing their own sadness and stress, must cope with, and support, the children they see every day in their classrooms. I pray for those on the staff at Girard who are themselves graduates of Girard; their pain must be extraordinary. I pray for the senior class, the class of 2014, who graduate as the last class from Girard College - a sad and solemn legacy.
Mostly though, I selfishly pray for my husband. I pray for him to have the strength to survive the daily, mind-numbing, ongoing and constant knowledge that the school he loves, the school he has given his entire adult life for, is ending. I do not need to pray for him to have compassion, or for him to love the children, or for him to remember why he is there. All of that comes naturally to him, as naturally now as it did 40 years ago. But strength- the strength to go on each day, to go back and face each day there, to not despair because of his own grief- that is what I pray for him.
When I started this blog in October 2007, there was a story here about my connection to "Tilting With Windmills". Much of what was in that post no longer applies. Much other of it still does. So, here's the story.
When I was graduating from high school, more than 40 years ago, a group of my friend presented me with a print of Picasso's Don Quixote. They said it reminded me of them.
I get upset when things are wrong, even though getting upset cannot fix them. I dislike people who are cruel or petty or self-serving, and am frustrated that I cannot change them. I fight a daily battle with my health, although I know that every new day is another battle. I have a husband and close friends who support me, even when what I want or believe seems crazy.
So, the comparison with Don Quixote is perhaps an apt one. The story encourages me to take on the battles I see, even the hopeless ones. It reminds me to try to see the best in people. It comforts me that, in the end, even if my actions are futile, they are not meaningless.
I mean to try to continue "to dream the impossible dream".
Picasso's Don Quixote
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