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Sep 07

Chris Smeaton

Taking our seat at the table!

This year, at our opening celebration and Spiritual Development Day, staff had the pleasure of listening to our keynote speaker, Mr. David Wells address our three year faith plan theme, “Taking Our Place at the Table!” The development of our faith plan is a grassroots endeavour co-created by interested staff members throughout the division. It provides direction for our faith journey as a division. From the very beginning, the theme had a social justice focus with links to Alberta Education’s Inspiring Education with the 3 E’s- Engaged Thinker, Ethical Citizen with an Entrepreneurial Spirit. Often an outside perspective, which was certainly provided by David, leads to deeper meaning or further reflection on what it means to take our place at the table. My interpretation of his three poignant questions (1) Are you prepared to be at the table? (2) Who is at the table with you? and (3) Who do you need to invite to the table? provided an opportunity for me to reflect on our work and our daily lives. And although we are a Catholic school system, much of his message resonated beyond our walls and spoke to communities around the world.  

Are you prepared to be at the table?

The simplistic response is, “Of course!” But it is not that simple because being at the table means you are all in! There is no fence sitting! There is no opportunity to opt out of the things that you may not be as comfortable with or wholeheartedly disagree with. This is not a buffet line where you pass on the foods you don’t really like. Suddenly, with this condition, things begin to change!  In the faith that you have or the work that you do, being at the table demonstrates a full time and not a part time commitment. From an educator’s perspective, being at the table means accepting ALLstudents, inviting ALL parents and welcoming ALL communities, even when you believe they don’t deserve it. It means loving the unloved, protecting the innocent and standing against injustice…ALL THE TIME! And furthermore, it is not through our beliefs or our words that we are at the table, it is through our actions!

Who is at the table with you?   

Isn’t it nice when you get to gather with like-minded people? You don’t have to defend your position or explain your thinking! But alas, at the table are people who don’t share your experiences, your thoughts or possibly even your beliefs. Sometimes are own arrogance or pride makes us believe we are a little more special than some others and we are surprised that “they” are sitting at the same table. Really…”they?” We need to understand that there are more people, who are different from ourselves who share the table. But maybe more importantly than who is at the table, is who is not?

Who do you need to invite to the table?

As you begin to feel confident about being all in and settle in at your place at the table, flip the chair around and look who is not at the table. You may default to the response that those not at the table probably don’t deserve to be there. But maybe they’re not present because nobody has invited them. Maybe they have a story you are unaware of that keeps them from the table. Regardless, they deserve the same invitation, the same opportunity to sit at the table.  Being at the table means bringing them to the table, because there can be no outcasts!

Taking our place at the table is a three year plan that will last a lifetime for each of us. There will be times in our lives when we will be the one offering invitations and other times when we are seeking invitations. We will have days when being all in seems to be the most difficult place in the world. But in all good conscience, we must strive to always be at the table, sharing our gifts with those around us and inviting those who are not present!

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