My sophomore year in Spanish class, I had a classmate from the convent nearby named Sister Mary Ruth. She was gangly and gentle and kind, and sought to strengthen her Spanish-speaking in the hopes of creating more meaningful relationships with families in her congregation. On our first day of class together, I noticed her keeping a long list in the margins of her notebook — each of our names, in meticulous cursive scrawl on yellowed graph paper, just for herself to remember. This simple act, her sincere attentiveness, communicated to me a profound and uncomplicated care that I had not seen in myself or my classmates in a long time.
Tonight I was lucky enough to witness such attention and care again, sitting among fellow students doing the radical work of pursuing higher education in prison. We sat together in my prof’s World Religions class, free world and caged learners dialoguing and receiving from one another with increasing joy and reception.
At the end of our time together, a classmate exhaled and said to our circle, “I feel like a person again.”
I am weepy this eve, in awe of the work of returning one another to ourselves. In awe of community fostered within walls designed to isolate, of dignity restored where people are given numbers not names, of the power of quality liberal arts/humanities education.
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