A Number of Things – 9.8.2023

Dear College of Science Faculty and Staff, When I was little, every Friday, my mom went to the Central News Agency store to pick up a bundle of magazines that had come to South Africa by ship from England. Among these were three for children – my brother got Boys Own, my sister got Bunty, both on newsprint and with contents considered appropriate for boys or girls. I was the youngest and got Jack and Jill, printed in glorious full color. There were stories, puzzles and two items I liked best. One was the Village in the Morning, and the Village in the Evening. The same view of some idyllic hamlet, drawn with cottages, shops in the center, a schoolhouse, surrounded by lush fields with sheep and a gentle river. The village was populated by children, moms who stayed home, and dads who worked elsewhere (and of course, no ethnic, gender or racial diversity was depicted). In the morning there was the milkman on his rounds, there were the children walking to school, moms getting wash on the line, and then off to the greengrocer or butcher. Shopkeepers were opening their stores with attractive displays of vegetables, meats, and groceries. And side by side was the early evening picture, dads coming home, children playing outside in the dusk, moms taking a pie out of the oven and stirring the pot of delicious supper. It was clearly not real, even to me as a child living in Apartheid South Africa, where most of the population did not have enough food, decent housing or schooling. But I hoped the cozy pictures could someday, in some way, be real for everyone in my country. The other part of Jack and Jill that I loved were the sayings, some short quote for the week. And one that resonated, that I have never forgotten: “The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be happy as Kings”. I looked it up yesterday and it is by Robert Louis Stevenson, a thoughtful poet and author, and here is the analysis. For some reason, that quote has stayed with me. Maybe because it is often true, although I would change the wording to “The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be interested as Kings” and you can personalize it, to make the statement less gendered etc. “Interested” seems to me a good way to approach life. As we enter the new Academic Year, each one of us is certainly surrounded by interesting things, across our portfolios of education, research and administration. We are surrounded by challenges also, at work or in our personal lives. Please look after yourself, take time for your well-being, and please ask for help if you need it. Let us be present and caring of one another. We are building our College of Science as a diverse, respectful, supportive, collaborative, connected Community, where each person is valued, and each person belongs. I am deeply proud to be part of the Northeastern University College of Science. I am deeply grateful that you are a member. I hope you have an excellent Academic Year 2023-2024!