Another semester of psychology graduate school wrapped up last week, which means three of my four semesters are done. That’s a bittersweet accomplishment since I’m a school nerd–one of those bookish types whose spirit is inspired by professors and courses and assignments. Very grateful to get a break, yes, but only a few months until this leg of my educational adventure is over? I feel sad about that.
Throughout my college career, I’ve always treasured the moment just after finals finish when I can reflect on the ways each class has challenged and changed my way of thinking, and hopefully my way of being. This last round of counseling courses not only equipped me with multiple new professional skills, but also heightened my sensitivity to people of various socioeconomic statuses, sexual orientations, races, ethnicities, genders, and more. Once again, my box was broadened through that never-ending stretching and pruning process that can be so uncomfortable yet so rewarding.
While my for-credit Cultural Diversity course concluded last week, an unofficial immersion experience began Sunday when I kicked off my holiday break on a trip with my eldest brother, sister-in-law, nephew (6) and niece (3). My brother (Caucasian) and his wife (Chinese) have an interracial marriage that began during his recent 8-year stint in China, and just this past summer his family relocated to the States — a major transition, no doubt. His wife had never left her country before their 2006 marriage, and it has taken a fair amount of time for her to learn English and acquire any taste for Western cuisine. Thus, in living with them over the last four days I’ve understood only half the conversations, encountered several entirely unfamiliar foods, and participated in a family system infused with a strong Chinese flavor. While their daily way of life seems very Asian to me, I can only imagine how American it feels to my sister-in-law. I often long to walk in someone else’s shoes for a day, to view the world through another person’s lens. Today I’m wishing I could put on her Chinese slippers and see through her deep and dark almond-shaped eyes.
The lessons of the past 96-hours have been rich and revelatory, shaping something much deeper than intellect. A quote from Gerald May’s Addiction and Grace helps put words to my feelings:
As nearly as I can tell, our core is what Hebrew and Christian spiritualities have called heart. It is the aspect of oneself that is not only one’s own center but also where one can be in closest, most directly feeling contact with the presence of God. And it is meant to be the center of our will, the nucleus of all choice and action. Further, it is where we realize our essential unity with one another, with all God’s creation…” (p. 102)
Yes, this family time together has engaged both head and heart, helping to further align my core with the fresh insights recently acquired in the classroom. In my experience, a lesson’s 18-inch passage from head to heart sometimes happens at lightning speed, like those epiphany experiences when life-changing visions appear in a sudden flash, or when walls crumble at a trumpet’s call. In other instances, that same journey feels more like an indefinitely long trudge following after a mysterious shining star in the far-off distance. For me, this particular awareness about diversity, unity, sensitivity, and beauty has been a bit of both: an extended semester of slow learning followed by a sudden dunk.
Though we humans cannot control how quickly we grow and awaken, let us not stop seeking the Truth who is God who is Love, the Truth that always leads us to a deeper level of compassion and love for each other. Let us continue to pursue this mysterious Creator who celebrates each and every one of his handiwork’s differences, and miraculously enables tightly-knit unity among our incredible diversity.
What lesson is seeping from your head to your heart?