Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Strange things happen sometimes

A bit over a month ago, I was looking at this dorm job as primarily a way to get free housing. I'd do all the paperwork, and the basic supervision, and leave the "emotional" stuff to Mrs. Kairos Guy (roommate conflicts, "triage" counseling, etc.) But a funny thing happened. I remembered a St. Blog's conversation from a while back, about looking at your work as a way of witnessing, and not merely seeing things like "Our Sunday Visitor" as worthwhile work and discarding the other things as merely material.

With that in mind, I have found a real enthusiasm for the job, even though the training has coincided with the birth of my daughter, and the return of Mrs. K-G to the hospital for some postpartum surgery. (She seems to be fine now, but prayers are always appreciated.) Instead of merely renewing my low-level hostility for my alma mater, the job has allowed me a new pleasure, because I can be what a Christian is truly called to be: a subversive. During a finger-wagging lecture on race by a couple of lost children of the 60s the other day, I actually stood up and complained that the so-called facilitators were actually encouraging and continuing racism, by essentially instructing us to continue encountering one another as objects, rather than subjects. (One student approvingly told me later that I was echoing Martin Buber, whom I--rather disgracefully, I might add--pretended to know a little about.) The silly gits who were running the thing merely heard the white guy in the back of room say he wanted to be treated as an individual, and proceeded to lecture me on how it's only people who are in power who say that. (If I have so much power, how come I'm living in a college dorm at age 33, by the way?) But at least some of the students, including some of African descent, sought me out to say they liked what I had to say. My hall opening meeting (with all 400ish residents) is going to speak a lot about the virtues of Charity and Humility (though I lack the courage to say much about chastity just yet...).

The really weird part of this, though, is that my enthusiasm for Christian subversion is carrying over into enthusiasm for the job as a whole. I have found a desire not to be contrary for its own sake (which was my main role as an undergraduate), but actually to lead. I want not only to offer students an alternative to a lot of the nonsensical pap that the Academy is feeding them, but to provide them a model and the intellectual tools to do something better, and a lot of the RAs seem to like what they hear.

This isn't a blog entry that reflects a lot of humility, but it should. That these things are happening at all has so very much to do with the fact that I have (for the first time in my adult life) recognized in a job a true Christian Vocation, and have accepted it and asked for help in fulfilling it. When the readings a few weeks ago presented Elijah in the desert asking for death--hitting the wall, as it were--Mrs. K-G and I both related to it in terms of 13 months of almost continuous pregnancy (save for 6 or 7 weeks following the miscarriage). But now I see in it also some sense of where I have been professionally for some years: unsure of how to take the next step; unable to discern further value or plan in my work. I have some new, limited understanding of how a missionary must feel, and why he might choose such a strange life. To model a Christian family in the midst of a viscerally anti-Catholic, secular institution with good cheer and a willingness to speak up is a challenge I could not take up alone, but by Heaven it is FUN.


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