Thursday, June 20, 2013

Marilynne Robinson's Writing: "Home," etc.

I recently finished reading Home by Marilynne Robinson. This novel is also loosely tied to her Pulitzer-winning book, Gilead. I think I valued Gilead a bit more in that there's non-stop wisdom and heartache pouring from the protagonist's thought process. But Home created the better character interactions as showcased here between central-figure, Glory, and her tormented brother, Jack.
"She said, 'I don't care if you were in prison,' but the words cost her a little effort, and he heard it and smiled at her for a moment, studying her to be sure that she meant them.
He said, 'You're a good kid'" (p. 290).
I had a chance to see Robinson in a Q&A format at a conference last year and while I was a little lost on the content of the session (having not read any of her books at the time), I was struck with her sense of calm and patience. Regardless of the style and despite the lack of excitement factor, Robinson provides the kind of writing that contains a level of wisdom that's worth every minute of reading it.

Monday, June 17, 2013


Wow, what a full week of incredible experiences. I’m not going to try to recap the whole of my experience on the Civil Rights Tour but I would like to post one final thought.
I noticed a theme from a few of the people with whom we had the opportunity to interact. Ms. Lisa McNair, sister of one of the victims of the 16th Street Bombing, spoke about what it was like to grow up in a home that had a missing member. The family recognized their daughter’s death but it was rarely ever spoken of, it was simply the way things were. We also heard from Ms. Phyllis Brown, sister of one of the Little Rock Nine who integrated Central High School. In describing the Nine’s reunions decades later, many of them would share stories that none of the others had known about. Again, there was a sense of silence.
I find a quiet beauty in this. Many of the people that we met with were simply trying to live their lives well. I believe there’s room for the Lord to speak within silence, moving people in ways our words cannot. But I am also so very thankful for the many incredibly moving words we heard this past week. I am thankful for people that are committed to sharing their story, giving others a small glimpse of one of our nation’s most important eras. Personally, I hope to allow room for the Lord to speak while also giving voice to what I have experienced.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Few Questions: Two Days In

The Civil Rights Tour continues! A lot has been jam packed into the first few days, visiting Greensboro, NC and Atlanta, GA. In addition to a lot of sites visited, I've done a good chunk of reading and documentary-watching on the forever long bus rides.   

When any serious time is given to really experiencing and learning about the Civil Rights Movement, it's hard not to quickly be confronted with the thought, "How could people be so hateful, so blind, so stubborn?" The inhumane words, actions, and systems were horrifying. 

After that initial question, a couple other series of questions quickly follow.

The first is this: "What kind of life would I have lead if I were transported to the 50's/60's? If I was a white student growing up in the Midwest, would I have been compelled to act? How about if I was an African-American in the South, would I have had the courage to fight the system, and to do so non-violently?" 

I'm ashamed when I think about the honest answers.

The second question, and perhaps the more haunting, is this: "What systems do I turn a blind eye towards in order to live the life I do today?" 

Dr. Eskew (a GSU professor we heard from today) elaborated on the economic and political context of Birmingham leading up to the Civil Rights Movement. In many ways, segregation and poor worker treatment was utilized to make the city successful at producing iron. It was at that point that Dr. Eskew asked what unjust systems are we a part of today, where are our iPhones or Nike shoes produced? (Hint: probably not in some local, worker-friendly environment.)

It's difficult dealing with internal prejudices that effect those in my closer community. When I start to think about the systems that I belong to that inhumanely disregard others across the globe, it starts to become a little overwhelming. Yet I think this is an appropriate emotional response. And I remain hopeful, surrounded by beautiful examples within the Civil Rights Movement where both personal and systematic injustices were overcome.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Here's Hoping: A Civil Rights Tour Prologue

I’m thrilled to come together with colleagues and students from both Messiah and Geneva in order to witness, discuss, experience, and process the Civil Rights Movement on an eight day tour all over the South. There'll be lots of hotels, charter buses, museums, and interesting conversations.

As in any educational context, the hope is that the knowledge doesn’t just go in one ear and out the other. Working in residence life, my hope with my RAs and residents isn’t that they just survive dorm-life or stay out of trouble. Rather, I hope that my students encounter a transformational learning experience, stumbling upon the inherent value in committing to one another or carrying conversations from the classroom/chapel over into the lounges (or a plethora of other things).

Likewise with this trip, I hope to be changed. I hope to learn a lot about the movement but I also want to be renewed in my sense of understanding of what’s come before me on issues of diversity and reconciliation and what that looks like today. I hope to recognize subtle (and blatant?) forms of prejudice in myself and work against those. I hope to discover new ways to challenge the students I work with to be courageous and inclusive. I have a lot of hopes…

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Summer: A New Season

Summer has arrived. Well, for an RD, summer sorta comes on graduation weekend. Then, after another few weeks of office-y work, summer really comes. And then there's two sweet, sweet months of absolutely nothing. (Followed by two months of non-stop work... but we're not going there mentally quite yet.)

Back to the two months of nothing. I lied.

Jorje and I are going on a mini-vaca, belated anniversary trip. A night in Annapolis. A night in Lancaster. We live in PA. We're going to see what there is to see. This part is total chilling out, maxing, relaxing or coolin' or shooting some b-ball outside of school.

But then I head out on a Messiah sponsored, eight day Civil Rights Tour, tromping all over the South, meeting some legit figures from the movement and seeing, in person, the places (and subsequent museums) of some of the major events of the time. There'll be plenty more blogging on that subject.

All that to say. Busy first two weeks of summer.

On to the real point of summer (this blog). I feel lucky to be in a position where I can really (like, really) relax. I have plenty on the Netflix queue (House of Cards, Louie, Arrested Development, a few documentaries, etc.) and a slightly unrealistic reading list (the next few: Boyd's Repenting of Religion, MLK Jr.'s Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community, Robinson's Home) that I'm thankful I'll have some time in which to soak.

As I'll be gone three strewn weeks of the total summer eight, I didn't try to land a job. So I also hope to work on some project-y things and futilely do for Jorje as much as she does for me throughout the rest of the year. The hope is that we'll also have space to lounge and take day trips and go for walks on a normal basis.

And then there's the coming of the fall. I want to go into year number two a little more thoughtfully. I no longer have the "it's my first year" excuse when it comes to thrown-together-staff-times, etc.. But the hope is that some of the reading/watching/reflecting will eventually be beneficial for not only myself, but for the students with whom I work.

There you have it. The spring ended well (albeit, "busy"-feeling) and I'm so very grateful to be where I'm at. Apologies on the purely "update-blog" but I thought I'd mark the start of this season with my general feeling.

Here's to the cyclical nature of higher ed.