A voyage

Whenever I read the word “voyage”, I find myself thinking of a boat crossing. I imagine standing at a ship’s railing as it cruises through waters … but I am not on a ship traversing the world. I have flown from San Francisco to Europe.

From May 24-June 1, I traipsed about Bamberg, my old home, to see old friends and students. I was able to catch up in their lives: two engagements, a baby on the way, new loves, the ending of relationships, children in another year of live, moves, changes and more changes. Then, there were the things that were just the same: the houses were just as they had been; the menus of my favorite restaurants were familiar; it was spargel season all about; the majority of the shops were still there. The Dom Cathedral had just celebrated 1000 years of being. Things change; things stay the same.

On June 1, I left Bamberg for Roma, traveling through Frankfurt. It was another long trip. I found myself looking out of the windows at passing fields, wondering at all the varieties of the color green. How many different shades have I seen in my life? Would I or anyone ever be able to name them?

I arrived in Roma in the afternoon incredibly tired. My body does not do well with constant transport nor when I am fatigued. While others may just feel tired, my body goes into shutdown mode, sending me signals as I drive it forward. Abdominal pain is the last bit before I collapse, which I knew. Once at the hotel, I made sure to rest. The natural herb tonic that I picked up in Germany as well is helping quite well. Whereas just yesterday movement was very difficult, today I walked about 5 miles. If I had been wearing better shoes, I would have walked still more. There is so much in this city to see!

More on Roma later, but I want to talk about storytelling.

This evening at dinner some of the early arrivals to IALU gathered together for a meal. I often tell stories, some self-deprecating, others simple reminiscences. For example, at this meal, I found myself called to tell my story of being an “absent-minded professor”. It all started with the art on the walls. I said, “They change the art on the walls” to a later realization helped by one of my colleagues, “You were in a different room”. I seriously was convinced that the servers changed the art on the walls each day! When I was helped to realize this, I noted that I was oblivious to the color of the alls. The dining room has purple walls while the breakfast room has yellow walls (they are next to one another). I had focused on the art alone and literally not seen the room for the color on the walls. I found myself telling my colleagues from around the world that I have always been an “absent-minded professor”, completely oblivious to certain things, like clothes. I continually put on clothes backward and have since I was given the responsibility of doing it myself. I often find myself looking down to realize that I have dressed myself incorrectly only after my students begin to giggle … but I figure that if I have forgotten the details of self in favor of the other, that’s alright on occasion. I am blessed to establish solid and trusting relationships with those around me so that when I do not see, they help me.

On further reflection, I think that story is well-told considering the context. Here I am at a gathering of scholar-educators at the International Association of Lasallian Universities colloquium. We will be immersed in learning more about what it really means to be a Lasallian university or college. As I read more and more of the assigned texts, I realize that I have been called to be within this group and to be a faculty member of St. Mary’s College of California. I do not write that lightly; it seems that every decision of my educational life and the actions that prompted those decisions have led me to this place. I was Lasallian before I really knew what it meant to actively be so … at least, this is what I am thinking now. I am already learning so much from the texts, even before the work done in collaboration has begun.

How will I grow from this experience? How will it push me in my service to the college and to others? I find myself asking these questions. How blessed I am to be allowed this opportunity to learn in Rome! How can I share this blessing with others?

Today (it is now past 12 am), the brothers will renew their vows, each in their own home languages. I learned this at dinner. I plan on going to the Mass, because I believe that there is something beautiful in devoting yourself in service, to following your vocation whatever it may be, that a vocation is magnificent and holy. Now, I believe that folks can be called to many things – to be a banker, teacher, lawyer, business person, etc – and that, as a teacher, it is part of my role to help students to realize and follow that vocation despite the difficulties. In watching those who renew their vows, I will think of the individual commitment to a common cause as well as the teachers (professional and familial) that helped them to realize their calls.

Voyages, yes. Many voyages.

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