Grateful to Help

Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We don’t know, and we can’t imagine.

via “We Don’t Know.” (a post on Quest for Meaning, a Unitarian Universalist blog.)

Today as I go about my life, I hear the words of Martin Sheen in my head, narrating a documentary I sometimes show in my classes, “On this day, there is only one place to be.” The words are a part of “Bringing Down a Dictator,” a film about the nonviolent overthrow of Serbian President Slobodan Milošević in 2000.

For me, on this day, there was only one thing to do. Our scheduled topic for my Introductory Sociology class was religion. I did work in the topic, but clearly not in the way I had planned. We talked about the Boston marathon bombings, and differently in each class, deferring to the experiences of people in the room. Some of my students or their family members had near misses: a race injury or a too-long line at a coffee shop kept them away from the sites of the explosions. Another is the niece of a friend of someone I know who was at the scene.

We did talk about the way in which, as our textbook expresses, “Religion helps explain the meaning of life, death, suffering, injustice, and events beyond our control” (Ballantine and Roberts, 2012: 341). As the post quoted above states, “We don’t know, and we can’t imagine.” This is whence our uncertainty comes, this is the state of our existence, ultimately, and this is where religion steps in. We did also talk Fred Roger’s quote and Brené Brown‘s tweet.

I was also able to discuss Alex Schmid’s work on conceptualizing terrorism, which I cover in my Sociology of War and Peace class (and which I will cover today in Peacemaking Alternatives).

Some students are already a little stressed by the impending end of the semester, two weeks from today, so even if they are personally unaffected by the tragedy, emotions are running high.

I’m grateful to be in a position to offer students the resources of my discipline, and my resources as a yogi to bring balance in thought and emotion to yesterday’s tragic events. I did not know what I was going to say, or how it was going to be received when I walked into that room today. But as Parker Palmer suggests, technique is what you use until the teacher shows up. As against any powerlessness I might otherwise feel in the face of these events, I feel grateful to be able to just show up for students, to “hold space” for them, and to do my dharma. Like those people running to the aid of the fallen, I do what I have trained to do. For the ability to do so, I am grateful.

We all have a part to play, and only to wait for our moment to arrive. May we be attentive to its arrival.

About Richard Hudak

I'm a college teacher, writer, practitioner of hatha yoga, and an avid cyclist.
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2 Responses to Grateful to Help

  1. Richard Hudak says:

    I’ve learned two things since I’ve written this post. First, my Peacemaking Alternatives class was even more willing to engage the questions of the day. They are sociology and peace and conflict studies majors, so they are a self-selected sample, a little more inclined to discuss such things and be nimble at it. But I am happy to turn over the future to them when I am in my dotage and dependent on them.

    Second, I have learned that the scholarship on teaching and learning (SOTL) indicates that students are more reassured when professors “do something, just about anything,” rather than ignoring tragic events of this magnitude. Trust your intuition, folks, you will find the way.

  2. Richard Hudak says:

    Reblogged this on Wholehearted Yoga and commented:

    Here is a reflection I wrote last year on the day after the Boston Marathon bombing.

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