Dear Flint Hill School Families,

I hope everyone had a tremendous Thanksgiving and a true opportunity to spend valuable and much needed time with family and friends. My wife, Emily, and I had a great Thanksgiving as well, and we hosted this year. But can I share a story about our Thanksgiving? It was a crisis moment that ultimately turned into a very special experience.

We had Thanksgiving all planned at our family home on the Eastern Shore. We had family coming from New York and South Carolina. It was going to be a chance to have special meals together with loved ones we don’t get to see as often as we would like. We had all the meals planned, including a wonderful seafood dinner, on Thanksgiving Eve and a large turkey dinner on Thanksgiving with all the trimmings. Even with all the work involved, we saw it as a moment to enjoy some special time away from the routine and time to relax during the holiday.

Just before everyone arrived was when we discovered that the dishwasher was broken! We called for the repair service only to find that the closest date they could come was New Year’s Eve.

A number of emotions flooded us at that moment, but we were determined not to let the breakdown of the dishwasher hold us back! Since Emily was planning all the meals and is our sole family chef, I offered to take on the task of doing the dishes after every meal. And as it turned out, it became an incredible opportunity to bond with our company. Instead of loading the dishwasher, going away and coming back later to pull everything out and to put away, I found myself creating a routine of filling the sink with soapy water, putting the dishes in, washing them, drying them, and then putting them away. Someone always offered to help. This “activity” became an incredible opportunity to talk, debate, question, share, and engage on a whole host of things. And we did it after each meal. The time became key and allowed me individual time with each person who stepped in to help me. Just like we hear that there is “real value” in putting the phones away and not engaging in “technology” for a period of time, this experience became fun, easy, and very informative all at the same time. Suddenly, this was us engaging without that dishwasher. It slowed us down for sure, but that slow down was actually just what we needed.

Sometimes, having a chore to do is important, helpful to others, and relaxing. I know for many of us, there used to be plenty of family chores like cleaning the table, washing the dishes, making beds, cutting the yard, weeding our gardens, and shoveling the snow when it finally falls. And yet, today, we have appliances that do a lot of that work, and we may hire others who come and tend to the yard, shovel the snow or make our beds. And I am sure many of us may make our children’s beds. But what if we did some of those chores together?

I found out that cleaning up was very therapeutic. It was enjoyable when other people would say, “Hey, I would help you with the dishes tonight.” We would stand there together, kind of in our own assembly line, and work our way through everything. So maybe this is something we should all consider as we look to the future. We need to consider such opportunities as a gift. I will tell you it never took that long to do the dishes. We would always be stunned at how quickly we had gotten through it all and how everything was put away without listening to the “hum” of the dishwasher or having to remember that we had to empty it. It was a simple part of the meal that went along with cleaning things up and getting set up for the next meal. It indeed was a blessing. And we all learned a whole lot more about each other and had conversations that just may not have happened in the larger group.

Not that I want all of us to watch our appliances begin to fall apart, and I certainly look forward to getting our dishwasher repaired, but now we know that if and when needed, we can do it! And now, I am tempted to do the dishes again over the winter break. I have learned to enjoy looking out the window, at what’s going on in the backyard, while getting something accomplished in a calm, direct way inside.

It is amazing how such random and unexpected opportunities give us the chance to finally connect with people. Sometimes they come out of the blue; sometimes they come from a crisis. And isn’t it amazing at what we learn from just living life? Not letting little things bother us and keeping a balance to what we are doing. It often just comes down to keeping things in perspective.

We have three weeks to go before winter break. Lots of activities here at school and I am sure in your homes before the holiday finally arrives. I look forward to all of us working to make it a very special time of the year for everyone. And be sure to check on your ready supply of dish soap and dish towels … just to be prepared!

Best wishes to you!


John M. Thomas