Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Changing the World, a Bus Ride at a Time

For those of you interested in gender issues in language, particularly when it comes to our images of God, go to this blog post at my theology blog.  I was struck at Synod Assembly by how often we referred to God as Father.  I'm sensitized to this issue (some might say overly sensitized) as a feminist scholar, so perhaps it bothered me more than it bothered others.  My blog piece explains why we can't afford to let ourselves slip backwards in this area.

It's interesting to me to think about how much things have changed, about how much we haven't changed at all.  When I turned in this Living Lutheran blog post about rediscovering Biblical matriarchs and the female face of God, I wrote to my editor that I'd written a very different piece than I would have when I was an angry-about-the-patriarchy 19 year old. Of course, that 19 year old would be very disheartened that her 45 year old self is still having to write such articles.  She would despair.  She would say, "Why haven't we made more progress than this?"

I think of my late adolescent self frequently these days.  I would tell that woman to buck up, that the time is coming when more women than men get graduate degrees.  I would hope that she doesn't look up the ladder and see only older, white males.  I'm tired of deflecting her justified anger.

Change is coming, at a slow drip or a fast moving train.  I have these issues on the brain as we approach the 50 year anniversary of the freedom rides (first started on Mother's Day--now isn't that an interesting nugget?).   I wonder if those late adolescents of a different era realized how much they would be changing our landscape.  Maybe they shrugged and said, "Hey, it's just a bus ride.  Hey, we're just having a hamburger at a lunch counter.  We're making a point, but are we really bringing about lasting change?"

We just never know for sure, do we?  Those freedom rides (and sit ins and marches) could have gone nowhere, say, if they had happened 10 years earlier, before the television was so widespread.

There are days I feel despair over my life and wonder if I've accomplished one single thing, made inroads in any single way that will make the path easier for those who come after me.  Women like me got Ph.D.s, which must have convinced more women that it was possible to do, because we now see more of them getting advanced degrees.  Then I go on to think about how many students have come through my classrooms, thousands of them, who could have found English Composition to be the class that closed the doors of college to them--but instead, there I was, flinging the doors open, saying, "Here's how you do it."  

It's harder in these days when I'm an administrator.  Yet I remember during my graduate school days, my community college days, I didn't exactly feel like I was changing the world either.  As an administrator, I hope to make it easier for faculty to teach.  I hope to create programs/classes/events/initiatives that keep students in school.  I hope to be the friendly face that everyone needs to say when the daily going gets tough.

There are many ways to change the world, many bus rides that we might take.  We are like those medieval laborers who built the cathedrals.  Our task is not to build the whole cathedral.  Our task is to build our bit, to help the arc of history bend towards justice (as Martin Luther King would phrase it).

1 comment:

Sandy Longhorn said...

Beautiful post, Kristin. I can assure you that you are making a difference! However, I too sometimes get the doubts. Love your last paragraph here and the sense that we are worker bees building something bigger than our lives will encompass.