The start to this academic year has been filled with a heaviness that has touched home for so many of the students with whom I work at Oxford College. The violence in Las Vegas was the tipping point so in an attempt to address some of the anxiety, grief, and confusion students were feeling and had expressed publicly on social media, I wrote the letter below. In a way it was my own attempt to process all that’s been happening, and as I thought about it, I wondered if it could be a helpful note for those of you who read this column.
We don’t always know what to do when the barrage of life’s suffering and tragedies reign down in our midst, especially when we aren’t directly affected. And yet, as one human community called to live so that we create belonging for all, we are directly affected. As human beings who have been made in the image of the Sacred, our responsibility is to greet and honor the Sacred in each creature we meet. This means those we know as well as those we don’t know.
My letter, then, is meant to be a letter to my students but also to anyone who reads it whether we know each other or not. It names the suffering, violence, and terror. It tries to provide a sense of care and to know where to go when we need help. It calls us to remember that we are creators of community and belonging. And it asks us to consider the ways in which we might go further than only keeping people in our thoughts and prayers. What actions might we take to improve our community – locally and globally – so that compassion, hope, love, and peace reign?
This letter is for my students, but it’s also for you.
Remember that school is important and taking care of yourself is important too. This is crucial on days like today (with the news of the terror in Las Vegas as well as Barcelona), which come along in a line of incredibly difficult and painful days because of white supremacy, natural disasters, lack of response to suffering and need, and so much more.
We all need to look out for each other and be a community of care, something that can truly happen here at Oxford and does often. Your faculty, advisers, and many staff are also here as a support for you. You can come see me, someone at the counseling center, RES coordinators, and so many more. But you can and most certainly do rely on each other to cry with about the heaviness in the world right now.
I felt like I needed and wanted to say this to you as your college chaplain, especially since I'm feeling it too and knew you must be. And I know this is a full week of tests and papers as you try to make it to fall break. So, be on the lookout for one another and create spaces for each other to belong and be together and make it through it all together. And at some point in the near future, you may even mobilize to act and be the beautiful agents of change you are bound to be at Oxford, in our community, and in the world.
Thinking of you and here for you,
The Rev. Dr. Lyn Pace is the college chaplain at Oxford College of Emory University and lives in Oxford, Georgia with his partner, Ami, and their son, Sam.