Getting Back to Work

4890955_337d8bf744_oI woke up Wednesday morning with no words. I could not post to Facebook. I could not Tweet. I could not even begin to scratch out my thoughts in the battered green notebook I carry to catch my writing. I did read, though. I read the Facebook posts of friends who were reeling in disappointment, anger, and utter disbelief that Donald Trump is our President-elect. And I read posts by students who were afraid of the world in which they were now living.

When I got to the campus where I serve as Chaplain, I abandoned all that I needed to get done and just started walking. I came across a student who had recently come out as gay. He laughed at the absurdity of this election, the surreal feeling that this couldn’t possibly be life as we know it. But tears welled as he spoke, spilling freely down his cheeks onto the sidewalk we shared. I caught a professor outside of the mailroom, he too, in tears. How do I teach today, he asked? How do we just go on? Then, I started knocking on dorm room doors. I wanted to see my Latina student whose family is still in the process of becoming citizens. And our Muslim Syrian students, here on special scholarships, beloved by our community, yet wondering now if they will be rejected from this place of refuge. And the African-American student whose rage lit up Facebook, his fiery words highlighting his feelings of betrayal, once again, by White America.

As I walked and met people on the sidewalk, in their dorm rooms, in their offices and at the mailboxes, I had no words to reassure, no explanation that would make this okay, no wisdom, not even any prayers. I was as hurt, shocked, and disappointed as they. I kept crying too.

I am not among the most vulnerable in this new land of Trump. But as a woman with career aspirations, a woman who knows how it feels to be touched inappropriately by a man, a woman who started wearing a clerical collar because she was so tired of being demeaned and disrespected in her profession, I woke up Wednesday morning with a clearer understanding that this is still a white man’s world. I thought we were better than this. So I had no words to offer my students and my community who were in pain. All I could do was be with them and cry with them—which was probably more a comfort to me than it was them.

Then, on Thursday morning I read this Brevity blog post by Allison K. Williams about beginning to write again after the trauma of Tuesday night. Williams’ writes:

We sit down again. We tinker. We find the rhythm, we find that yes, it matters to say something, anything, on the page. That we are not just artists but craftsmen, and craftsmen go to work. We have spent—or are spending—our lives sharpening our tools, and they are not just for fine days. Our tools—our words—matter not for how we use them when all is well, but how we use them to shore up the levee when the waters rise.”

Williams’ also reminded me of this wise parable:

The novice says to the master, “What does one do before enlightenment?”

“Chop wood. Carry water,” replies the master.

The novice asks, “What, then, does one do after enlightenment?”

“Chop wood. Carry water.”

And I realized that I needed to get back to work. The chores of justice have not changed, regardless of this election.   What has changed, for me at least, is that the need for justice is clearer.  So I begin by putting pen to paper in my battered green notebook and by adding my voice to all the voices saying “No” to misogyny, racism, prejudice, hate, and xenophobia. I chop wood. I carry water. Understanding that my load isn’t nearly as heavy as others. Understanding, too, that the burden of injustice is a burden for all.

[Feature Image: Paul Fosselman]

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