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Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Pastor in the Hallways

I have recently begun going back to school.  I tell people that I’m on the 25 year plan; that if I focus my attention and really knuckle down on the work, I can cram all four years of college into 25.  I have just a few more classes to complete in order to earn my Bachelor’s degree.  And I’m finally getting around to completing them.

One of the classes that am currently taking is an English Composition class – writing. A few of my friends have suggested that I probably could have tested out of it and not had to actually take the class.  I can write and (if I may be allowed a bit of self-promotion) have a book that should be available any day now.

But I wanted to take the class anyway – for a couple of reasons.  1) It has been a while since I was in a classroom as a student.  And while ENG COMP may be an easy class for me, I have a math and a science class to take as well, and those will be more challenging.  I wanted this class to be an easy reintroduction to student life.  2) I know enough about myself to realize that, given the opportunity, I will avoid human interaction.  I’m very much an introverted person.  So taking the class was a purposeful choice to put myself into a situation where I would need to meet and interact with new people.   And 3) I wanted to find new ways to be a pastor to people.  The last two points are related and interconnected.

And some of those things are starting to happen.

In my ENG COMP class last night, we watched the documentary, The Invisible War, about rape and sexual assault in the various branches of the United States military.  It was a powerful film, very moving. Very emotionally draining.  We have an assignment to write in response to the film.  250+ words on the issue.  The standard sort of ENG COMP kind of writing assignment.

But after the movie ended and the class was dismissed, I could see that one of my classmates was still upset.  He’s mentioned several time in class that he spent a number of years in the military. It’s something that he’s quite proud of.  It is a large part of how he identifies himself.  And the film made him very upset.  Angry.  But not angry in a “how dare they say that” sort of way.  He was embarrassed and angry, angry that the institution that helped him to define who he is would allow people to be victimized and assaulted and then treated so shabbily afterwards. 

I was tired after class, tired and emotionally drained.  I was ready to go home and very nearly turned the other direction in the hallway to head out to the parking lot through a different exit.  But I could see that he was hurting, so I hustled down the corridor to catch up to him, and engaged him in conversation for a few moments. 

I let him vent.  And vent he did.  He cursed. He swore. He even growled a little bit. As I said, the film was very powerful.  After he had the chance to verbalize most of what he needed to express, he paused, took a deep breath, and then said, “Now I have to go home and face my family.  I don’t think I can do that.”

“Give them a hug,” I told him.

“I’m not sure I can.”

“You can.  You love them,” I said.  He shrugged and headed out towards his car.  I trekked back the other direction towards mine, and then went home.

I may complain a little bit about the rudimentary level of this class (I know how to use punctuation, I know how to do a research paper, I know how to write a bibliography…) but I’m glad that I’m taking it.  It is good for me to be here.  I haven’t gone out of my way to tell the class that I’m a pastor – but I’m glad to be there as a pastor in the hallways when they need one.

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