Posts tagged ‘Reflection’
I apologize in advanced for this post. It’s something that was on my mind after overhearing a mother say these very words to her son on the subway yesterday, and reading Kristin Chenoweth’s book and all the strange ways we meet people made me really want to say something about it all.
We’ve all heard this rule at some point in our lives. Whether it was directed to us, or we overheard it, we all understand what it means.
Parents say this to their children in the hope that it will keep them safer. If their kids don’t talk to strangers, then it’s less likely that something bad will happen to them. If their kids don’t talk to strangers, they won’t be kidnapped.
Some parents have ingrained this into their children’s heads so much that it makes their kids seem shy. My parents were really adamant about this, for example. I’m pretty sure my mom told us (or at least me) a couple of horror stories about why you shouldn’t talk to strangers.
For years, my siblings and I have always been the quieter ones at parties, even family parties. We didn’t talk to people we didn’t know, and never bothered to break out of the shell of people we knew. Sometimes an aunt or an uncle or a cousin would introduce us to someone new, but it wasn’t something we sought out. I think this might have put some of us at a disadvantage in school and in life.
See the problem with this “rule” is that it is a “rule.” In reality, the words “don’t talk to strangers” should be taken more as advice.
Think about it. If a little kid takes this phrase as law, they will never get to know anyone. They won’t talk to their teacher. They won’t try to get to know other people at the school. They’ll be that poor loner child sitting off in the corner reading a book or playing in the sand.
In Newsies, there is a scene in Medda’s Theatre where Katherine Plumber is sitting in a box taking notes on the performance and Jack Kelly sees her and finds his way up to her. She tries to avoid his advances and curtly states: “I am not in the habit of speaking to strangers.” Jack replies, “You’re gonna make a lousy reporter.”
That’s my point. If we go through life avoiding talking to strangers because of this rule our parents once made, we will never meet anyone. If you never talked to that random girl sitting across from you in the cafeteria at summer camp, she wouldn’t be your best friend today. If you never spoke to that guy who sat next to you in that one college class, you wouldn’t have met your first great love. If you didn’t take a chance on that girl sitting at the bar with her friends, you would never have met the mother of your children.
And so, I firmly believe that it is not “Don’t talk to strangers,” but rather “You shouldn’t talk to strangers, but if you do, be aware and be careful.”
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.