Reflections by Jean Heriot
I can’t believe that I have been a part of this program for seven years, since the fall of 2003, and so many students have come into the program, graduated and begun their work in the world as young adults.
When I work with students, I never really know what aspects of what I teach will stay with them. And, I am never certain that what I am trying to convey is the right or appropriate thing to say or do. Despite my years of training in academia and in the church, I still struggle, as do our students, with the big and eternal questions of life – what has meaning, where should I use my skills and talents – I also struggle with the little things, the day to day priorities. One student recently wrote to me that she appreciated the gift of time. She said I always invited her into my office to talk whenever she stopped by. A former graduate was glad that I told her she was not living up to her gifts in one of my classes. She turned it around, in part, because of the “threat” of a grade; yet, that push propelled her into a new realm of engagement. When do we push, how do we listen, how do we balance knowledge acquisition with practical engagement? Each of these questions is familiar to teachers at any level. I strive daily to live authentically so students know I care about them as people and about the choices they make.
It is a privilege to convey that faith is not just about a creed or a set of beliefs or values. Faith is so much more. Faith involves how we live our commitments, how we act in the world, what we care about so much that it keeps us up at night. As I have engaged in the Vocation and Values Program, I have grown not just in teaching but even more in understanding the gospel message that we live, as best we can, an ethic of care. I am saddened and hurt when I see children in an orphanage in Mexico reaching out for love, and I am gladdened by all the agencies in Hastings that reach out to care for the hungry and the homeless. At the same time, I hope that we can grow our safety net to reach more people – so that all who are hungry can be full – full not just of food, but living lives full of meaning and purpose. It is to that wider goal that the gospel directs our attention over and over again. It’s hard to believe that such transformations are possible in these times, but that is what faith is all about. I have seen student after student engage in these questions, with the hope and energy of youth. To work with our students in this deeply meaningful way provides endless opportunities for my own growth as a teacher and a minister.