Tuesday, March 05, 2013

what you will remember is not the words of your enemies, but the silence of your friends*

After class was over yesterday one of my students sat crying at her desk. When I walked over she handed me her phone and said, "Can you read this?". So I read.

What she wanted me to read was a message from a friend of hers who is studying abroad in Eastern Europe right now. The friend had taken a trip with some other friends to see one of the Nazi concentration camps in Poland. And at that site, the very spot where thousands of people were murdered, the young Americans had played. They had enacting killings. For example, they had pretended to cut each others' throats.

American juniors (third year students at four year universities) are 20-21 years old. Current juniors were born around 1992.

My student is Jewish. And, according to her friend, so were some of the young Americans playing at the concentration camp.

It took 70 years, but we let it happen. We let it happen that they didn't learn.

*quote by dr King, as I remember it

Monday, March 04, 2013

it's work, this life

An old friend told me the other day that she was totally expendable. There was nothing she did, she said, that couldn't be carried out by someone else instead. I'm sure my face signaled surprise at that point, because she looked at me and said, "And the same goes for you".

No one has ever told me anything similar before.

My friend is a middle-aged woman just as I am. But she lives in Sweden, not in the US. And I think her, in my mind, depressing outlook stems from the fact that you get "old" earlier in Sweden than you do here. No one will hire you if you're over 50, the saying goes. At least not if you are a woman.

I've taught at a Jesuit university for almost exactly 13 years. The Jesuits are big on vocation - the idea that as a person in the world part of your job is to find the place where "your greatest talent meets the world's greatest need."

I am sure there are hundreds of people who can teach my classes or take my photos. But I don't think of my work that way. Instead I tell myself that where ever I am at any given point, that's exactly where I'm supposed to be. I, no one else. And: Wherever I am, I have to stay open and sensitive to my surroundings so that I can see clearly what it is that I'm needed to do.