Liv Passarelli '19 speaks up in chapel
Just inside Clark Memorial Chapel, a quote by the Swiss moral philosopher Henri Frederic Amiel is inscribed on the wall. "Life is short and we never have enough time to gladden the hearts of those who make the journey with us. O, be swift to love! Make haste to be kind."
Twice each week, on Monday and Friday mornings, the assembled Pomfret community shuffles by these words, voices hushed, to hear the week's senior chapel talks. The good challenge for each member of the senior class is to give expression to something personal and meaningful.
On this particular day, it is senior Liv Passarelli's turn at St. George. As a sophomore, she says, "I would wake at 5 a.m. each morning to wash, blow dry, and straighten my hair... I was young and vain, and cared more about fitting in than anything else." At the same time, she was becoming increasingly aware of the way her friends and acquaintances demeaned and belittled themselves over seemingly trivial matters — the clarity of their skin, the size of their muscles. "If I wanted to help others embrace their insecurities, I would need to embrace my own first."
The idea for a senior chapel program was first raised in 1972 by former headmaster Brad Hastings '68. Hastings wanted to create a rite of passage for members of the senior class. Over the years, chapel talks have become a significant and beloved part of school culture.
"Through the telling of stories and the sharing of insights, chapel talks raise our community up," says Chaplain Bobby Fisher, who oversees the program."They exist at the the intersections of the sacred and ordinary, the holy and the human. And through the development and delivery of these talks, seniors often uncover significant personal beliefs, experiences, hopes, and convictions in the process."
Unlike many other schools with similar programs, Pomfret requires every student to deliver a talk before they can graduate. Each senior develops his or her speech in conjunction with a faculty advisor and the school chaplain. During senior chapel, three seniors typically speak for six to eight minutes each.
By the end of her sophomore year, Liv Passarelli had embarked on what she describes as a journey of self discovery and self love. "I had to find ways to appreciate myself," she says. In her chapel talk, she tells of how, on good days, she would sit in her room and write notes describing her most admirable qualities. On the bad days, she would stare deep into the mirror, trying to appreciate the way she looked. And nearly every day, she would set aside time to plumb the depths of her psyche, trying to apprehend who she was at her very core and why that was enough.
As her chapel talk drew to a close, Passarelli took a deep breath, and then addressed her peers directly:
"For those of you who may feel uncomfortable with certain aspects of yourself, you need to know that your hair is beautiful in every kink, coil, curl, and straight strand. Your skin is beautiful in every shade of color, from the very lightest to the very darkest tone. Your body is beautiful whether large or small, and it does not need to be the most muscular, the strongest, or the prettiest. Your beautiful scars, spots, stretch marks, and cellulite are what make your body unique. There is no need to be the smartest, or the most athletic.
"You don't need to be a prefect or have a title to be a student leader. You don't need to be the most relevant or popular person in the room. You don't need to walk with others wherever you go. And you don't need 100 fake friends, you just need one good one... The most important thing, I understand now, is that you don't need validation from anyone, you can only validate yourself."