Monday, December 11, 2017

Prompt #1: "Tell me about a beginning"

So my seminary semester ended last Saturday. I am officially half way through my seminary journey. Thanks be to God. 

And because I'm constantly seeking ways to know myself better, 
ways to write better, ways to be a better version of myself,
perhaps the best version, I sign up for online classes. 
I'm taking three right now - all related to self-study, writing, gratitude, 
and learning how to pay close attention to my life and to the world around me.
So good. So much beauty. 
One of those classes started today.
And the first prompt was: "Tell me about a beginning."
This is how I responded.
(Check out my latest teacher here - Jena Schwartz. The current class is called: What if you knew?)
(Another of the classes I'm taking at the moment is called "Advent of Light - Journaling Course" -  it is being offered by Karen Walrond. She is a gift of light and love and journaling prowess. She and her family recently lost their home to flooding in Houston - she lost all of her journals, except for the one she had with her when they evacuated. Nonetheless, she is teaching and writing and shining a light on how to stay hopeful, how to seek and find light, in the face of tragedy and loss. I've followed her blog and writing since 2007 - at least.)
(The other class is being led by Patti Digh. Another gift in my life. Wise. Sharp. Fearless. Fierce. Honest. Challenging. Inspiring. Real. Generous. Hospitable. Funny. A prolific writer. And one of the hardest working people I have ever known. She exudes strength and determination.)

So this is my response, mostly unedited, to Jena's first prompt of the course. 

It began when I was a freshman in college. I went to a professor’s house for tutoring in poetry. I didn’t "get" poetry. I couldn’t understand it. When I arrived at his house, he waved me in from the living room where he was watching television. America had invaded Granada. There were soldiers on the ground on an island I didn’t know anything about, protecting American medical students from a threat they didn’t know anything about. My professor was livid - he cursed at the television and at our president. I think it was Reagan.
A few months later, it began again when I was in a political science class and my Argentine professor started talking about American involvement in Latin America, in his home country, and elsewhere. He talked about “banana republics,” but he wasn’t laughing. He talked about dictators and fascists, about take overs, and people who had "been disappeared." I had no idea what he was talking about, but it didn’t sound like the United States I had grown up in.
The beginning continued as I read more and watched more documentaries and listened to my fellow black students talk about their experiences of racism and discrimination in the classroom and in their dorms. I began to see that the bubble I had grown up, the bubble I lived in, the bubble I maintained around my life, my heart, and my body was soon to be burst.
The beginning continued when I met the coach from the Nicaraguan national basketball team. Their national team came to my college to play against our team. The national team! I was thrilled and excited and imagined that they would crush our little division three squad. What I didn’t realize was that the average Nicaraguan man isn’t very tall, nor does he have access to large quantities of food. Anyway, I was introduced to the coach of the team in the fall of my sophomore year (or was it my junior year?) in college, just before thanksgiving. I took him home for Thanksgiving that year. He didn’t speak much English and I didn’t speak much Spanish. He came to our humble home in Brooklyn, New York, and I managed to communicate to him that he was free to eat and drink whatever he wanted from our refrigerator. He opened the fridge and peered in at our leftovers and overripe cheese. He asked if that was our Thanksgiving meal.
The beginning continued when I realized that our leftovers were a feast for him.
The beginning of seeing my life and the world around me through compassionate eyes,
through eyes of deep gratitude and through eyes seeking signs of justice and fairness,
the beginning of the weeping, the deep sorrow at the suffering of so many people,
the beginning of the desire to save other people,
the beginning of the realization that I cannot save anyone,
the beginning of the journey that would bring me to this moment,
to the beginning of a new life of work and service through the church,
it all began when I was a freshman in college, when I arrived at that professor’s house,
when I watched him and listened to him and
learned more that afternoon about life in these United States and
the lives that we took in other nations
than I learned about poetry.

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