During the Senior School run of The Laramie Project, I had the privilege of helping shuttle Judy and Dennis Shepard, our very special guests, from A to B during their four-day visit. I was honoured to play a small role in this powerful production which CDS boldly chose to stage. Not only was it an absolute pleasure to get to know the Shepards, but I also got a glimpse into their life mission to #EraseHate in memory of their son Matthew’s tragic death.
I remember sitting with Judy and Dennis backstage before one of their talkbacks that followed each Laramie performance and asking them whether, after all these years, it was still hard for them to talk about what happened. Judy responded without hesitation: “Kim, it’s what we do. It gives us a purpose to keep getting up in the morning.” Dennis chimed in, “And it helps us keep Matt’s spirit alive.”
We all need a purpose in life, and as parents, our primary purpose is raising our children. Whether we go out and work every day, so that we can continue to feed, clothe, shelter and educate them, or whether we maintain the household and drive them all the places they need to go, our children are our main purpose. We take great pride in ensuring their safety and wellness. While Judy and Dennis cherish their second son Logan, they started the Matthew Shepard Foundation to help right the wrong that ended Matthew’s life at the young age of 21.
Incorporated into the CDS crest are the words Integrity, Learning, Purpose. As a school, these are the three words we live by – what our teachers try to instill in our students as they fulfill their purpose of guiding and supporting learning. This is a reciprocal arrangement where the teacher shares their knowledge and models integrity and the student gathers a wide perspective across many subjects while also gaining life lessons from both parent and teacher. The combination of care, education and learning gives everyone involved a purpose that leads the student down a road toward discovering whatever their passion is.
Of course, not all of us are parents, educators or students. But we all need a purpose to get up in the morning. Discovering that purpose is sometimes a lifelong pursuit. Some find it through their job, or multiple careers. Others find it through familial roles, hobbies or the caring of a loved one. A willingness to recalibrate from time to time is sometimes necessary. Some of us may also have multiple purposes.
Shortly after the Shepards returned to Wyoming, I received a gift from them. It was a 20th anniversary beaded bracelet from the Matthew Shepard Foundation with the words Erase Hate. Not only had I been given a small, yet important purpose during this life-altering production, but these two words were a reminder of an even bigger purpose we all must share. Teaching acceptance is Judy and Dennis’ life purpose, and hopefully we can make it one of ours as well.
Kim Sillcox, Director of Communications & Marketing