The school my son attends in Johannesburg has a wonderful ritual and tradition of rewarding outstanding behavior, or exhibitions of leadership, or demonstrations of sincere humanity. They call it “knight of the week”, and it could be awarded from a show of honesty, bravery, courage, discipline, giving, forgiving, empathy, helpfulness or Leadership.
The reward is simply a recognition, and most people respond well to some form of recognition. But there is a catch. As the recipient of such a reward, one is not supposed to know the real reason for its awarding. The point is, that you don’t do something just to get a reward, you do it simply because it is the right thing to do.
Now I have only been a parent there for nearly six years, but I can’t remember if anyone other than a pupil has received “Knight of the week.” It is with this in mind that I write this reflection.
For every day of the past six years we have been greeted with warmth from the Pridwin ground staff. They have waved us in with open arms and lit up the way with their smiles. They have ushered our most precious treasures safely across the roads and have helped them carry their bags if necessary. They have turned school drop off from a chore to a pleasure, and they have always tried to make it as efficient and convenient as possible.
And yet, often their reward is a blank stare, or even a frustrated glare when drivers are asked to be patient as someone else’s treasure is ushered safely and lovingly to the safe side of the lot. I have seen parents park where they like, as even in gym kit, the thought of walking ten extra meters seems deplorable, or a ten second wait for a car to pull out means that some suit has lost out today on their race to the top. I pitied what the energy might be like in the ivory towers on these days.
But my beef here is not with the parents – we are all guilty of various forms of ignorance or abuse, however light. My fillet is with the staff. And particularly today.
On the coldest and most miserable day of the year (so far!), the troops were out in full force. The smiles were even brighter and through the driving icy rain, the orchestra of parking attendants were waving their arms and conducting the flow of traffic. Some had brollies, others didn’t. Some had rain suits, others had beanies, but despite a lack of resources and horrible conditions, they were out there doing their very best, and doing it with humour and with warmth.
Is there a better lesson for our boys to learn than this? Is there a better example of resilience and responsibility? That when things are tough there is still work to be done, and when there is work to be done, we might as well do it properly despite the poor taste of the passing traffic.
In the race to the South Pole, Amundsen marched and Scott blamed the weather. The rest is history, and today that story stands tall in a pile of analogies and examples of Leadership.
Whilst it may have felt a bit like the South Pole today, thankfully we didn’t have to go there on a school outing debited to our accounts to learn a few lessons.
They were right there in the school parking lot – being handed out for free by unsung heroes.
They are my Knights of the week.