An Open Letter to Those Who Inspire
(but, really, for John and John)
I think that in order to say what I want to say I’m going to have to ramble a little so I ask that you bear with me. This is meant to be something, what I don’t yet know, but there has to be a beginning and I will find it. I think that an observation, maybe more like a very short story, will get us there.
A while back now I was driving down an interstate and scattered around the country on both sides were all these farmhouses, silos and barns and wire fences that hold nothing but abandoned hopes. Every one of those places once served as a beacon of wildest dreams for a man and a woman and their progeny. Of course, I can only speculate. When they enter my life, briefly and at 75 miles per hour, they are simply husks. The cicada shells at the end of a long summer that clasp blindly at their perches and refuse to just throw it all in and drift away in a stiff breeze.
These skeletons, fragile thin bones, should strike the deepest sadness, and they do. Unless you manage to slow down and see what lies beneath. Amongst the graveyards stir new beginnings, a persistence of existence. Not forgotten, not abandoned, their residents toil and laugh and are reborn day in and out as they wake and deem their old stout shelters worthy of the effort. Sisyphus embracing the stone. The day they rise and finally fall is the day humanity fails.
Time for an extension of my metaphor. Marlboro College, as I saw it when I left, was becoming a husk, and yet, in spite of itself, it shelters new beginnings that are in no way brought on by you. I hope to show some small amount of appreciation by ensuring you that the things you do are of the utmost importance to many, many people. My circle is small, but given enough time I know I could find students from year one of your careers who count you among the top positive influences of their lives.
Even though you may not need a reminder, or a reason, I hope this helps you keep doing what it is you do, in spite of or because of a school that has not always given you the support you deserve, or a student body that is, at worst, hostile, and at best, fickle. Remember that you do make a difference. I can speak only for myself, but I would put good money on others feeling the same.
For me, you cared at a time when I thought no one was. I wasn’t even your student yet, but I brought that stupid zine to show you during my interview, and you were either genuinely interested or really good at pretending. A year later, it was still in your office tacked to the wall and I can not stay enough what that meant. Later I saw you handle a tough class dealing with race by openly addressing your own past, with no judgement, just an invitation to be as open with ourselves as you had been with us. The whole time I have known you you have asked for nothing but a willingness to listen and do what is best for ourselves.
This is in no small way why I am where I am in my life, happy and progressing, learning how to coexist peacefully with all, myself included. Not a day goes by that I don’t rely on something you taught me. I hope you know that your words do not fall on deaf ears, or your actions on unseeing eyes. The world, my world, has been changed by you, and I hope that students have that opportunity for years to come.