Posts tagged ‘Christian Brothers’
The last weekend of April I am going on a retreat with some Christian Brothers up in Narragansett, RI. The theme of the retreat is “The Spirit Emerging.” We were asked to bring a little writing about where we were spiritually. It could be about our students, our life, our family, anything at all. Here is my reflection.
Writing has always been easy for me…when I knew what I wanted to write about. When I don’t, it’s worse than nails on a chalkboard, which is saying something because as much as the mathematician in me loves chalkboards, that squeaking sound cannot be anything other than the devil.
Writing about my faith, about the spiritual side of me, is never easy. I feel like I never really know what I want to write, or what I want to say. It’s the same thing I went through in trying to write about inclusive community for the 5 Core Principles Dinner at Saint Mary’s College of CA during De La Salle Week—stuck in a rut where everything sounds fake and used-car-salesman-y.
Here’s where I’d normally go off on a little tangent about writing what you know versus writing the right way, but as I just used that in that speech I talked about, I feel like I need to be a little more creative and refrain from certain references that will make members of this group shake their heads and sigh at me. So I’m going skip the cute analogies and similes and such, and just be honest.
It’s tough for someone like me to admit to weaknesses and struggles on the level that they really bother me. Sure, I can share the surface of the struggle with others, but I never express how much it actually does eat away at me. I never delve deeply into what I feel or why I feel that way with others.
That is something I tend to save for my prayers during the day when I just need a break from all the stress and hassle of getting other stuff done. So I’ve already stopped writing about ten times before I even got to this paragraph, because I needed a break. I wasn’t joking when I said I don’t like writing when I don’t know what to say. Just give me a couple of paragraphs and thoughts will start to flow a little better. Then I’ll start to panic around the time I need to come up with a conclusion. If you ever read (or hear) anything I’ve written, you’ll notice that this pattern reigns true for practically all of my writings. But back to the stresses and weaknesses that I don’t want to really delve too deeply into…
The last few weeks have been nothing but stress for me. From my parents visiting, to my students returning from an Easter break where, no surprises, they did no homework and have now forgotten everything, to visiting Saint Mary’s to recruit for the LV program, to this retreat, I feel like I haven’t had even a second to breathe and focus on myself. I’ve been so busy living up to everyone else’s expectations that I’ve started to lose my way.
So I started what I always do when I get stressed out beyond comprehension and am still struggling to look like I’m holding it all together. I pulled out some books that I read growing up. Conveniently, I didn’t have a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird nearby at the time, so I’ve taken up my new Madeline L’Engle books (by which I mean new copies so that my childhood copies don’t get more destroyed. I’m sort of surprised how many of my paperbacks are falling apart).
As I read A Wrinkle in Time on my flight to Milwaukee last weekend, I found myself, once again, surprised at how God constantly finds a way to speak to me. It’s not always obvious, but he is constantly nudging me to where I need to be, to what I need to hear to continue to grow and to climb out of the stress-hole I dig for myself.
Now, I’ve read A Wrinkle in Time hundreds of times (I’m really not exaggerating here. I read it through completely on my 2-ish hour flight). I love this book, but I swear it changes every single time I read it. Now, I know this isn’t really true. It’s really me that has changed. Each time, a different detail pops out at me, and it always has to do with whatever I’m thinking about at the time. So since I was still freaking out about my speech on Inclusive Community, I really took a hold of Meg’s words to IT regarding equality and sameness. Meg has a really great point. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you need to read (or re-read) this book. Meg comments that equality doesn’t mean that everyone is the same.
So when we reach out to include people, we don’t have to include them the same way that we include others. They don’t have to be a part of a community the same way that I am, or the same way that you are. They can be a part of the community their own way. It doesn’t mean that I’m more a part of the community than you or them. It just means that we are included in the community in our own way, which was a really fun concept to think about and very eye-opening for the next couple of days.
Of course, anyone who’s really read Madeline L’Engle’s books knows that once you read one, you have to keep going. So I recently started A Wind in the Door. Like A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door has appealed to my curiosity about other issues I’ve been contemplating and struggling with over the last few months. I’m still mulling it all over, and haven’t got much of anything to say about it yet, but I love that becoming Lasallian has opened my eyes to all the different ways that God tries to speak to me in my life. Before college, I didn’t really think about why different things stood out in books and movies, but as I became Lasallian and chose to pursue my faith on my own, I’ve found myself actually seeing God’s hand in my life. It’s amazing, and I hope I never lose sight of that.
This is my address to the leaders at my alma mater: Saint Mary’s College of California. I was one of 5 presentations (6 presenters) on the 5 Core Principles of the Lasallian world. I gave this speech on Monday, April 23, 2012.
When I was asked to speak at this dinner, I knew I wanted to talk about inclusive community. This core principle was such an important part of why I chose to attend a Lasallian college five years ago. But when I sat down to figure out exactly what I wanted to say tonight, I realized how challenging it was going to be to put the concept of “Inclusive Community” into words. For me, it has always been more of a feeling. But these two seemingly simple words embody a critical part of the Lasallian mission, and the more I thought about it, the more I started to crack under the pressure.
I wrote a few ideas out, and set them aside for a couple of days. When I got back to them and read over them, I was disappointed. They seemed so fake to me, like something you’d hear from a stereotypical used car salesman.
It was time to start fresh. Armed with a fresh sheet of paper and my favorite pen, I turned on the Newsies Original Broadway Cast Album, and I sat with a blank sheet of paper until halfway through the album, when my favorite song started. Katherine Plumber, the new female reporter in the Stage Adaptation of Newsies brought to life by Kara Lindsay, spoke out loud exactly how I was feeling: “Write what you know, so they say. All I know is I don’t know what to write or the right way to write it. This is big, lady. Don’t screw it up.”
Right. Don’t screw it up.
I thought back to my first English class at Saint Mary’s. Barry Horowitz scrawled the words “Keep It Simple, Stephanie” onto every paper I handed him. Why did I struggle with this concept so much? Writing what you know the way you speak shouldn’t be so difficult. But it is for me.
Reflecting on it, I realize that it’s because, like the character Katherine, I worried about the “right way” to express something. I haven’t always been a part of an inclusive community. Before college, I spent so much time guarding my ideas, my passions, and my beliefs with a huge brick wall and an electric fence because being different wasn’t always embraced. And I was different. I still am, but now, I embrace it and appreciate the things that make people different because of my experiences in the Lasallian world.
That’s why Saint Mary’s was so magical for me. My first day visiting the campus, I felt like I belonged, and I had just started my senior year of high school. There were, and still are, so many people who are accepting on this campus.
But lots of people around the world are accepting. Lasallians take it to the next level. We embrace our diversity, and celebrate our differences. We rely on the uniqueness of each person to make us what we are.
Walking onto campus, you can feel the camaraderie, the bond that connects all of the students, faculty, staff, and administration. The people on this campus welcome each other. They listen for new ideas, and run with them or argue about them. They are open to discussions, to the blending of ideas. They are open to change, and consistency.
Saint Mary’s thrives on bringing people from various backgrounds together to learn, to live, and to love. When we gather at the round tables for our seminar discussions, we grow when our differences come up. We learn about each other, and about other sides of issues through these differences. And having an open mind to these differences is critical, for it is our differences that provide us with a truly enriched college experience.
As leaders in the Lasallian world, it is up to us. We can continue to embrace this dynamic living situation where we create the warm and inviting atmosphere that encourages community growth. We just need to continue to reach out and welcome others with open arms into our community.