- Kathleen Henderson Staudt
- I work as a teacher, poet and spiritual director at a number of institutions in the DC area. My teaching focuses in various ways on writing, poetry, Spirituality and Christian vocation and ministry - especially from the point of view of the laity. I also offer classes and retreats encouraging people to explore their inner lives, engage their creativity and reflect on their beliefs about God, vocation, and how we can discern and pursue new ways to transform our broken world. I enjoy speaking of faith in the secular academy as well as reminding those preparing for ministry in the Church that our primary purpose is to love and serve the world beyond the church's doors. I love helping people to grow in faith and to find their own voices, and I also love encouraging them to use their minds. I see no contradiction between these impulses, believing as I do that faith, reason and creativity work together.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
A Time to be Alive in
"Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive," wrote Wordsworth about the early days of the French Revolution, "But to be young was very heaven!" I have thought of those lines a lot in the past 48 hours, since the announcement of Barack Obama's election. It is thrilling to me to see so many young people engaged in the political system again, and believing that maybe things can be changed. Not all young people, of course. I did bring all this up in my poetry class the day after the election. It wasn't so high energy, I guess because people were dog tired -- and I also sensed some bewilderment about why all the adults were saying they were supposed to see this as so "historic." For many of them there was a lot of excitement about this having been the very first time they voted! (And they WILL remember, I know, that this was their first vote (just as I remember that my first vote was for George McGovern - in Massachussetts, mind you). Their memory of this will be far more compelling than they think, whatever comes next, and definitely something to tell their children! Even if they don't know it now-- and of course I saw lots of young faces in Grant Park who already get it!)
I was even more very inspired by the experience of going door to door on Election Day morning, near Fredericksburg, Virginial, leaving door signs and "getting out the vote." Though most people were at work by mid-morning, at one stop I knocked on the door and was greeted with joy by an African American mother, with her 3 school aged children crowding to the door with her. "Yes!" she said WE voted already -- they came with me and helped me cast this vote! This is SO EXCITING!" and we shared the excitement together. I a 50something white woman, she a younger mom in her thirties. Later on I had a similar encounter with an African American dad. He pointed to his young daughters and said. "Yes. We voted already. And they voted too. We're just going to let their votes ripen until they're old enough to cast their own!" I made the rounds with a woman older than I who had come to Washington in the 60s with her husband to work in the Kennedy Administration -- an era I remember from being a teenager. The sense of new possibility and new participation in the political process is so thrilling. And when I woke up Wednesday morning and learned that Virginia had turned blue, I thought "I helped to do that." "Yes, we did!"
An acute reader will point out to me that Wordsworth's long poem, "The Prelude," goes on to recount the disillusionment that followed the French Revolution and of course he's taking a long view, but in the poem, the social disasters that followed did not wipe out the memory of that dawn of new things, and the new ideals, of liberty and equality, were here to stay despite what came later. We will have our challengesin the time ahead but the sense of hope and possibility, and the conviction that this is how things REALLY are supposed to be, remains - as it remains in the poet's lines, despite what comes after. Whatever may lie ahead, a new thing has happened now that cannot be turned back. "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive" - that's how I'm feeling today!