Last month, we invited a scholar named Dr. Richard Weissbourd to speak with parents and teachers about his research, which demonstrates that the more exclusively we focus on individual success, the less we care for others and the common good. To balance personal achievement with caring for others and the common good, Dr. Weissbourd urges us to widen our circle of concern.
A circle of concern encompasses the range of things we care about. Examples include our health, our family and friends, and our challenges at work or at school. When we expand our circle of concern beyond ourselves — to our neighborhood, our city, our country, or worldwide challenges such as climate change — we can connect our unique gifts and passions to what the world needs. When we expand our circle of concern beyond ourselves we can see where we can truly make the most difference. When we widen our circle of concern we can create a sphere of influence that is both meaningful to the self and meaningful beyond the self. When we widen our circle of concern we come to know our life’s purpose.
How beautiful, therefore, that today’s Thanksgiving assembly has demonstrated all of the good that happens when we widen our circle of concern beyond ourselves, stretching out to others and to the common good, out to our “planet spinning through space.” When we widen our circle of concern, our hearts and minds expand, and we become more connected to one another, to ever-widening communities, and to the common good. On Thanksgiving, it is important to remember the ways in which we are, truly, all in this together when we widen our circle of concern.
In the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address we read: “We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as people. Now our minds are one.” To be sure, we are all different, and it is a form of love and respect to acknowledge and celebrate what makes us unique. But when we give thanks for common blessings, we “bring our minds together as one” and “live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things.” By widening our circle of concern, we achieve unity without uniformity. Whether that circle of concern is your family, your group of friends, your class, your grade, your division, your school, your neighborhood, your city, your country, or your planet, we hope that at Hewitt, you learn to widen your circle of concern. Because when you do, you will be more connected to yourself, to others, and to the common good.
I wish each and every one of you a happy Thanksgiving.
Dr. Kinsey delivered these remarks to K-12 students at Hewitt's 2019 Thanksgiving assembly.