On whose shoulders?

“On whose shoulders do you stand?”

This was a question asked of me on Friday. My honest reply was that it is a question I have been grappling with quite a lot lately, post-U.S. election. Is it those hard-working immigrant farmers tilling land that supposedly had been pre-ordained for them? Those people whom I must find a way to forgive?

On whose shoulders do I stand?

To help answer this question, I have also looked recently at those people who shaped my consciousness in my younger years, especially the Nebraskans who showed me the truth behind legacy or institution, the people who taught this farm girl that the world was a big and beautiful place and that there was room for all people in it. Teachers, especially, have such an important role in the world right now.

I’ve been thinking so much of late about a college professor of mine who took a small group of students to meet and spend a week with the First Peoples of this nation, his friends on a reservation where he had served as a priest. I have been thinking that I needed to write him a letter, to tell him how much knowing him has affected my life, how much the lessons he afforded me to learn continue to ring out in my life’s work.

As I told this to a teacher who was sitting next to me at the Association of Writer and Writing Professionals last weekend, she started to cry.

With her tears as inspiration, and with mine in gratitude, I wrote the letter this weekend to Dr. John Krecji, emeritus professor of sociology, anthropology and social work at Nebraska Wesleyan University, who was excommunicated for his activism in 1996 and is still fighting the good fight! Here’s a snippet:

“After college, I went on to become an international aid worker. It took me many years to truly understand the colonial and imperial origins of this ‘do-gooder’ industry, and it is still something I actively question, critique and work to re-shape – every day… It is what I learned from you at NWU, about principled collective action, about treating people with respect, and making decisions with integrity that has guided me in ways I still cannot fully comprehend. Thank you for showing this farm girl what it meant to be in solidarity with all people – that this is a lifelong commitment and it requires lifelong learning, which you have exemplified always.”

Here is to those who enable the cognitive dissonance that feeds our intellectual, emotional and spiritual formation!

On whose shoulders do you stand?

Maybe it’s time to reach out and say thank you.


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