One of my favorite days of the year is Toogoolawa graduation, which was held on the 1st of December. There are always lots of tears – both joy and sadness – as we celebrate another great year at the school and send off a group of 20 boys, some who aim to go back to mainstream school and some into the workforce as 15 year olds.
As each of the boys graduate, their teachers call them up to speak about them and their transformation during their time at Toogoolawa. Often the boys start from a place of uncontrollable anger and violence. It’s an amazing process to see them grow into loving, funny, caring and sensitive boys. I'm in awe of the teachers and social workers for their commitment to the boys and their families. After the teacher talks about each boy, the boys give a small speech telling their story and giving their thanks. It's a wonderful day and after 20 years of these graduations, it seems to just get better every year.
Every one of the boys has a story or background of some adversity and challenge but I wanted to share one with you that is very special:
Lachlan is 15 years old and came to the school 3 years ago as he didn't cope well in mainstream schools. He's by no means a bad boy, just one who doesn't fit in. In his graduation speech he walked to the microphone with leg braces on and spoke with no notes. He thanked all the staff and said that what he learnt from Toogoolawa was that all problems can always be looked at from a different perspective allowing us to grow and be grateful.
Lachlan has had a challenging year. He was diagnosed with leukemia and whilst going through chemotherapy, he and his mum were evicted from their house and struggled to make ends meet.... yes we are helping.
I cried like a baby when Lachlan spoke, in fact the whole room did, not just in sorrow, but in celebration of this kid’s amazing courage and perspective. Even as I write this, it brings a tear to my eye.
I wanted in my final newsletter this year to encourage you over the festive break to allocate some time to comforting someone who may be in need or lonely. I know I talk a lot about always bettering ourselves with education, diet, wealth and wellbeing, but honestly, the best investment I've ever made is in Toogoolawa. It’s not the money, but the opportunity to be amongst these amazing people and to share their amazing experiences. It was my mentor who convinced me as a 25 year old to start Toogoolawa and even now more than 25 years later I'm still appreciating the miracle it's been in my life.
Bettering ourselves should ultimately be for one goal; that we can experience the gift of giving.
Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year. Your property is doing really well and I expect next year will be even better. See you on Kickstart in February.
As we say after every meditation at Toogoolawa: Namaste; may we honor the goodness in each other.