Leslie Sysko and Chris Wheeler


84th Annual Tree Trim 2012

The tragic massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, CT on Friday, December 14th, brings to mind and heart many things, chief among these is grief. After the most acute phase of grief subsides, and we pray that it may, there will be debates about laws, social customs, and the role of family and community in the lives of its most troubled members, and much, much more. At the end of all of these roads must be truth, tolerance, and virtue. Dr. Wheeler’s comments on the occasion of Tower Hill’s 84th Annual Tree Trim offer some wisdom in this vein:

The following address was delivered by Dr. Chris Wheeler, Headmaster, on the occasion of the 84th Annual Celebration of Tree Trim and Caroling, Monday, December 10th:

Welcome to Tower Hill School’s 84th Annual Tree Trim celebration. All of us assembled here today, faculty and staff, students and parents, grandparents, alumni, friends and visitors, come together today to witness and participate in this special Tower Hill tradition.

93 years ago, when Tower Hill was founded, there existed a very strong relationship with the Episcopal Church. Even today, our school’s mission statement refers to our Christian heritage. But today we also recognize that many faith traditions make up our community, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist – forgive me if I have missed anyone! And while we must acknowledge that this Tree Trim celebration is Christian in its origin, at the same time we can take away from it truths universal to almost all religions. In that spirit, I encourage everyone present at this Tree Trim tradition, whatever your faith, to reflect on the source of love, peace, kindness and community in your hearts.

The Reverend Peter Trow offered this prayer in 1999 (the same year our seniors were in Pre-K!):


Let there be respect for the earth,
Peace for its people,
Love in our lives,
Delight in the good,
Forgiveness for past wrongs
And from now on, a new start. Amen


Our Tower Hill family comes together at this time of year to witness a Tower Hill tradition. This morning you will see all of our seniors helping the faculty with our lower school children, as the little ones prepare to place their ornaments on the tree. We have a number of seniors, 25 to be exact, who were themselves lifted by seniors 12 or 13 years ago and who have now come full circle. This tradition is one that has taken place 83 times before. By observing this tradition today we connect to our past as we look to the future. And like the evergreen tree, our tradition celebrates the renewal of the Tower Hill family. I hope that we all find peace and joy in being together this morning as we witness this wonderful ceremony.


Before we conclude our ceremony I would like to read a poem by the 13th century poet Rumi. For me this poem expresses well the idea that whatever your religion, whatever your mode of worship, there is a common source of light that illuminates the truths of our lives:


What is praised is one, so the praise is one also,
many jugs being poured

into a huge basin. All religions, all this singing,
one song.

The differences are just illusion and vanity. Sunlight
looks slightly different

on this wall than it does on that wall and a lot different
on this other one, but

it is still one light. We have borrowed these clothes, these
time-and-space personalities,

from a light, and when we praise, we pour them back in. Amen.