Jessica Randall is a graduate of the MAS program. She works at a faith-based private university in North Carolina. She lives with her spouse of nearly eleven years and three misbehaved Boston Terriers. Jessica has a particular interest in the spiritual sweet spot where society, culture and religion intersect.
When I was given the opportunity to write for this blog, I was really excited. I had a lot of ideas that I wanted to explore and was happy to reconnect with the MAS program. However, every time I sat down to write, I couldn’t hit my stride. I knew exactly what the problem was, and it was a spiritual one.
I link my spirituality closely to my politics and civic engagement. I feel Christians are called to create communities that reflect the teachings of Christ. I realize that is a loaded statement. It’s also at the root of my current spiritual problem. Between the election campaigns, war, contraception debates and chicken sandwich drama, I’ve found myself deeply troubled. I look at the world and see a faith deeply divided and a society marginalizing others, often in the name of Christianity. It’s affected my sleep, my spirit, and my ability to write this piece.
Until today. Today is one of my favorite days of the year. I work in higher education and today was the day that the freshman moved on campus. It’s a crazy day when new students are welcomed into an established community. It’s filled with a lot of sweat, as volunteers haul mini-refrigerators, duffle bags and cases of ramen noodles up the three flights of stairs. It’s filled with tears as parents face the reality that they are soon to release their child into the next phase of life. Freshman Move-In Day is full of chaos, stress, joy and anticipation.
It is also a vivid example of the “Haves” and “Have Nots” of the world. Consider two families I helped unload today. Family One pulled up in two new Range Rovers. They unloaded a 32” flat screen television, microwave, refrigerator, laptop and printer, all new and still in the box. Add to that 60 items of clothing, fresh from the dry cleaners, two gaming systems and a small hill of boxes and bags. Family Two on the other hand, drove in to the lot in a 1980’s beat -up station wagon. The student had a medium sized duffle bag, a small box, a pillow and three plastic grocery sacks. These are not outrageous or unusual examples. On Freshman Move-In Day these stark contrasts roll in from 8 am until dinner.
As I drove home with a sunburned face and aching muscles, I thought about our new Have students, and Have Not students. And I smiled. Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” And I have to believe him, because if it’s not true, everything I do to help students succeed on campus is vain. However, I subscribe to this thought, because although I know that these two students stepped on campus today worlds apart, for the next four years they will both have a wealth of experiences and opportunities at their disposal. And if they work hard and take advantages of all that is being presented to them, they both walk out as Haves. As in have an education. An equalizer in years to come.
I am not naïve enough to think that other systematic issues may not present challenges for one student and not the other. But it is a start. A start to building our communities into something stronger. As I went down the road, I began to think about education and politics and spirituality, of course. And I thought that maybe education is something that all Christians could get behind. That a vote for accessibility to higher education could be an act of spirituality that we could do together. No one is given anything in education that they will not be asked to work for. The pursuit of a degree takes hard work and dedication. We can’t suggest that spending money on education takes away from future generations, because doing so is quite the contrary. It empowers individuals to give more to future generations.
There are so many issues where our theology defines our politics and divides us. Education could unite us. An equalizer for years to come. Proverbs 16:16 says, “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” If getting an education is worth precious metal, giving one must be priceless.