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used shoes, service, and humility

A busy semester has come to a close, and finally now I have a few minutes to reflect in writing. Again, as I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been digging further into service learning as my pedagogical approach of choice–and really immersing myself much more deeply into acts of service in the process. Many of my students, as this semester has wrapped up, have reported what I Shoes. Heavier than you think... Loading up to bring the shoes over to Share Your Soles. Shoes are heavier than you think.can only call “transformative” experiences. I get comments occasionally from students about how the class really changed them, but I’m usually skeptical about such remarks–especially if they come before final grades are posted. Are they only telling me what they think I want to hear? I’m no less skeptical this time around, but I can say that I’ve gotten remarkably more of such comments this semester than ever before–and many continue to come in now–even after grades have been posted. I can’t help but think I struck a chord with students. People want to be involved, they want their lives to be connected to others and to worthwhile endeavors; it’s just that sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. I think the class this semester gave some of them a place to start. It’s been cool. I can say that this is the first semester I can remember where I didn’t feel beaten up at the end. Rather, I’m feeling energized and excited about what’s next.

I remain engaged with some of the organizations I started working with along with my students this past semester–The Share Your Soles Foundation is one of those organizations. In fact, I only just recently wrapped up a two-month long shoe drive (that started as a student project, but eventually became my project). I also continue to assist Share Your Soles with their newsletter, other mailings, and writing as needed. Thursday Chris and I attended their anniversary fundraising event, as well. It’s been quite fun being involved with this organization and meeting all kinds of cool people along the way. I plan to continue my involvement. If you ever met Mona Purdy–the founder of Share Your Soles–you might wonder if I even have a choice in the matter. Mona is the kind of person you just can’t say no to, but that’s a good thing–truly.

It’s in moments like these that one understands that honor lies in the service of others.

One thing I am most appreciating in the service-learning work I am doing with my students is the opportunity to work side-by-side with students outside of the classroom. The baggage of the student-teacher relationship really falls away when you are sorting used shoes together, sweeping a floor, or boxing food. It’s grunt work–sometimes dirty–but it is humbling. I am reminded of my time in Japan studying Aikido. After a hard practice I recall vividly how the master whom everybody so revered as expert and wise teacher would be the first to take a wet rag from a bucket of water and–on hands and knees–begin wiping down the mats. We all worked together in the most mundane but necessary of tasks–side-by-side regardless of rank, age, or status. It’s in moments like these that one understands that honor lies in the service of others.

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