It was a joy to celebrate this week four school events. Only one is the subject of this short comment, Frank Harrison’s 90th birthday on Tuesday 20th. He was at mass with his wife Mary, and 5 of his sisters at 8am. At mass apart from parishioners there were teachers and pupils from our Catholic technology college, with the present head, the head boy and girl, and others from the administration.

Frank revealed to me that he is an optimist; he has been through a lot in his life, apart from being the 2nd head-teacher of our High School. He was a “Desert Rat” and has written a scholarly history of the siege of Tobruk. After the siege along with his fellow survivors he was a prisoner of war, ending up in Germany. He lost many comrades who were friends as well in that ghastly conflict the 2nd world war. Apart from being a poet, an artist, a courteous and caring gentleman, he has suffered a stroke, but it does not dim his spirit.

During the recent “Gaza atrocities” (December 2008 – January 2009) for which he painted a strikingly sad picture whose central theme is a terrified Palestinian child with huge staring and frightened eyes, representing the 400 children killed there last year, he confessed that his optimism had been struck a serious blow. Not surprising! I suspect that his years with youngsters in education give him extra sensitivity to the plight of innocent children. It is harrowing to look at the photos of that conflict when 1,417 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.

Last Tuesday morning the reading at mass was from St. Paul to the Romans, chapter 5 that includes this statement in verse 20: “however great the number of sins committed, grace was even greater, and so just as sin reigned wherever the was death, so grace will reign to bring eternal life thanks to …Jesus Christ”. In the face of the dire tragedies of our world, what genuine justification can there be for anyone to remain “hopeful and cheerful” when humanly it seems there is no solution unless there is faith in Jesus? We need Jesus to remain upright and optimistic human beings, for otherwise it seems not possible!

What good role models are men and women like Frank for the children in our schools, and for that matter for the parishioners in our parish. Such people have the courage to look reality in the face and still remain hopeful. Hope is not quite the same as optimism, and Hope is the virtue that comes from above, and is a necessity for human beings to remain human, and not turn into dried up cynics.

Schools together with families should be safe havens where young people can immerse themselves into values that will help the child grow into a mature human being with qualities of trustworthiness, concern for others, an awareness of what is right and what is wrong, and training in self-discipline and manners that are essential for any human growth. Those values need nurturing at home and also in school and are essential to lead to each pupil of a school, whatever their academic ability to reach their potential.

We need role models from parents and teachers, and we are blessed in Leyland with such people.