What do you need me for on Monday?
Our headmaster kept asking that.
He is retiring now. Today is the last day he is the headmaster. The new principal takes her position from tomorrow on. But she insisted: "I still have tons of questions I need to ask you. I'll make a list." Later on she realized that probably won't do and he just might go home too early, so she decided to have a conference.
Fake conference, I wrote, but it wasn't really. There were some things we needed to talk about and it came really handy to keep our principal at school by one o'clock.
Then he thanked us in a short little speech, we thanked him, there were a few thoughts said and so on. Finished at twenty past one.
He must have felt odd, leaving the staff room, no one trying to stop him.
Not for long. There were some fifty people waiting for him. We knew they were coming and we had to make sure he would be there. His "Why on earth do I have to be at the conference?" became needless and everything became clear.
The clear voices of some eight girls filled the lobby, greeted him and let him know there was something else prepared for him.
There were the representatives of local communities - the smallest units, smaller than the municipality - like from almost every village, some twelve of them. They ASKED us if they could come and thank this man whom they described as an upright, but modest Person with a capital. A Man. Someone who knew what people needed, cared about every young life, worked hard to do things right, but not to build a career, but to contribute. And I must say, they did not say a single word too many.
Evry five years he needed to be re-elected and for that he also needed the support of the staff. It is common that principals, even if there are no other candidates, get some 70, maybe 75 or 80% of votes. The really good ones maybe more. But I don't know any other principal getting 100% time after time. For thirty years. Can you imagine?
Each of the representatives had some thoughts, written on a scroll, they put it in a wooden chest so our principal can read it at home, on the couch in the evening. So they said. Handshakes and some tears.
And there was wine they brought with them. Bottles, chosen from their own production. From their vineyards, and yet, bottled in a manner that would fit any fine restaurant.
More songs, sung by the girls and by everyone present. we have this nice toast, saying "as many drops so many years, may God give us to live in ths world... "
We spent the evening together on Thursday, that was a much bigger event - he invited us all (some seventy of us) for dinner and we prepared some programme and presents. But we were careful to make him laugh rather than cry.
This time it was too emotional. He got the recognition he deserved, coming sponaineously from the local community.
Anyway, as soon as we knew he was going, we also knew it couldn't happen quietly. I'm just sorry I can't put the atmosphere and the emotions into words and write them here. Impossible.