The Beirut Baptist School’s (BBS) enduring mandate has always been ‘to prepare its students in mind, body, and spirit to meet the challenges of the world around them’, expressing the essence of what it now means to be a ‘global citizen’. While the curriculum at BBS drives academic achievement, the school has always strived to celebrate the whole person by intentionally nurturing character formation alongside academic success.
Within this context, the Counselling department’s recent ‘Friendship Day’ was an opportunity for the whole school to explore the important values of compassion and empathy. In celebration of Friendship Day 2016, the Counselling department encouraged students to show appreciation for their classmates by giving small gifts from a brightly decorated stall in the playground. The smiles that radiated around the playground were a touching reminder that the heart of friendship lies in placing value on others.
Using classroom time to explore the theme more deeply, the overwhelming message of the week was that friendship isn’t just for people of the same religion, tribe or culture, but that friendship is a powerful bridge that creates peaceful community in the midst of diversity. This hugely relevant message is a daily reality for BBS as a faith-based school that thrives in a densely populated area of Beirut. The school has built a legacy by extending the gift of friendship, including opening up its premises as a relief centre for internally displaced families during the 2006 war on Lebanon.
In a beautiful expression of friendship without boundaries, the funds generated from the playground gift sale were invested into relationship building at a local retirement home. A small group of BBS students visited around 30 elderly people at an elderly center to explore friendship across the generations.
After explaining the significance of Friendship Day, BBS’ student band played a selection of old Lebanese songs for the elderly residents; their delighted audience responded by smiling and dancing enthusiastically! Having put everyone at ease the students then introduced a game; they passed around a box and when the music stopped the person with the box was asked to draw out and answer a question. There were some very moving answers to questions like: “Tell us about your most memorable experience?”, and ‘Can you offer some advice on love and marriage?’ A few answers had the whole room laughing as people described their most embarrassing experience and the greatest surprise of their life. Simply by listening attentively the students communicated that each elderly person had something important to offer.
Later in the morning the students had time to chat freely with the residents, and were pleased to find some unexpected personalities in the room. One gentleman had been the Dean of the Lebanese American University for 30 years, while one lady confessed to being a former Miss Beirut! After exchanging gifts and sharing lunch together, the students came away chatting about all they had heard and learnt from their new friends; the Director of the centre later called to thank BBS for their thoughtfulness and expressed how much the residents had enjoyed the visit.
After a very successful and thought-provoking Friendship Day, the Counselling Department are now looking forward to focusing on Careers Day. The careful balance required to provide an environment where students can acquire both the academic means and the personal character to work and live successfully alongside others is a staple feature of the education that BBS offers its students. Education at BBS has never been solely about academic achievement, but rather about building life skills and experiences that help individuals serve actively and live in harmony with others.
Claire Skinner | LSESD | May 2016