Carol A. Hand
I remember rushing up Bascom Hill, a hefty climb, to the Social Science building at UW- Madison. I didn’t want to be late for class. I was the teaching assistant and official note taker for the undergraduate diversity class of 465 students. It was a lovely fall morning and I was feeling a sense of excitement. I had just received news that the grant I wrote with one of my professors had been funded by the National Institute of Health, the top in the pool of applicants. It meant I would be on a fast track to finish my doctorate with a career in academia guaranteed.
Photo Credit: Bascom Hill, University of Wisconsin – Madison
As I crested the top of the hill, I neared the site of one of the last battles of the Black Hawk War. Just shy of the plaque commemorating the war, a tribal elder appeared dressed in an unlikely outfit – blue jeans and a plaid flannel shirt. He looked at me with severity and simply said, “You need to remember what is really important.” I didn’t have time to reflect on the message then, but in the decades since it is something I contemplate often, although this isn’t a story I share with others for obvious reasons. The challenge of walking in two worlds, one based on rationality and empirical evidence and the other based on a deeper spiritual awareness are not easily reconciled. It turns out that I didn’t finish my degree based on elder caregiver issues. It would take more than a decade and many experiences later to finally complete a study on Indian child welfare, but that’s another story.
Photo Credit: Dennis McCann, Journal Sentinel
Today, I was reminded of this unlikely encounter by the last two blogging 101 assignments: “Content Loves Design”, and “Plug in to Social Networks.” Again I am reminded to think more deeply about why I began blogging in the first place and why I have continued. Honestly, I do hope people read my posts and find something of value. And I am grateful for the virtual friendships and community that allow me to see the world from so many different perspectives. Yet I am challenged daily to remember what is really important. It isn’t fame, and it isn’t being acknowledged by awards or having thousands of followers. For me, blogging is about connecting on deeper levels with people who share a commitment to exploring how we can each make the world a better place in our own ways.
Facebook is a necessary superficial medium to maintain some connection with family and acquaintances, but it has proven to be a profoundly disappointing venue for engaging in substantive dialogue. LinkedIn, focused on connecting on a professional level is likewise not a platform for sharing deeper dialogue. So what would be my purpose for using either of those venues for engaging potential readers?
Looking back at my encounter with the tribal elder who miraculously appeared, I realize that what I have needed to learn at various points in my life has appeared at the time I was able to learn from the message – Sartre’s existentialism, Camus’ absurdism, Kuhn’s scientific revolutions, Bronfrenbrenner’s ecosystems theory, or Freire’s liberatory praxis. The stories I tell are no comparison, but I think they do have meaning for those who find them when the time is right.
I am grateful for the prompts that encouraged me to think more deeply about life on the margins and what really matters. For me, it isn’t fancy fonts or fame. In an age of overwhelming choices, I realize once again how grateful I am for the community that finds what I share worthy of attention although what I have to say is simple and unadorned.
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