Tales From Abroad: JAM Summer 2015 Nov06

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Tales From Abroad: JAM Summer 2015

IMG_2835            Truth, goodness, and beauty. Those are certainly worthwhile things to seek in this life. So much of what I learned from Justice along the Meridian (JAM) came from being exposed to incredible people who’s ways of life are chock full of truth, goodness, and beauty. There’s a quote attributed to St. Augustine that says “the world is a book, and those who do not travel have only read the first page.” I always liked that quote, but now I think now I really understand what he meant. To travel is to expand your mind further than you could have ever dreamed before. To travel with an open heart is to undergo the incredibly humble task of reckoning with the jarring idea that your culture might not have a monopoly on truth, goodness, and beauty. To get outside of my white, American, Christian bubble and to be thrown into a different context was an incredible gift for which I will be forever grateful.

“Never forget the grit, the grind, the hard times, the dirt. Always remember the poor people even though it makes your heart hurt.” In this excerpt from Lemon Anderson’s slam poem “Poor People”, I’mIMG_2851 reminded of the obligation that comes with the gift of travel. To have an experience like this obliges you to really wrestle with different realities than you’re used to. To encounter marginalized and vulnerablepeople. To wrestle with the ideas and worldviews you encountered along the way. It obliges you to go looking for hard questions, and to refuse to be satisfied with easy answers; answers that don’t challenge your preconceived notions about the way things are. JAM was an incredibly formative experience for me. It challenged me with the reality that the world is a beautiful and terrible place, and charged me to steward my gifts to fight for justice and wholeness in a profoundly broken world.

Across three countries, we had the incredible privilege to spend time with people of many different religious backgrounds andworldviews. I interviewed an atheist/humanist, spent time with many Catholics and a Monk, visited mosques and an interfaith dialogue center, and interacted with many muslims. All this travel and conversation with different people than I’m used to really made me reframe my way of thinking about religion. I guess I didn’t grow up consciously thinking that other worldviews and religions were outright wrong, but latently, I was pretty sure that mine was correct and better than everyone else’s. I think one of the many things that this trip has done has cemented that the combination of constructive skepticism and deep/genuine respect for the way other people understand the world should be a foundational piece of who I am.IMG_2883

Through JAM, we were given a unique opportunity to practice empathy, to imagine suffering through a different window than we’re used to. To see the world through an extraordinary lens, to do our best to imagine the suffering of the 3 million slaves trafficked through Ghana’s El Mina Castle, to think of what it might have been like to be one the Nanford Guest House girls being taken advantage of in Oxford, or a West-African seeking a better life across the Mediterranean. The contextualized, empathic learning we engaged on JAM, was an opportunity to make often intangible or overly intellectual ideas tangible and impassioned. To be charged by these experiences and to be equipped to use your giftedness to take action against injustice is, I believe, essential to a truly well rounded education. JAM accomplished this and much more, and I have a feeling that I’ll be learning from it for the rest of my life.   IMG_2978