I’m writing this to you tonight because it’s taken me a very long time to realize that you have lived most of your lives in a world, that for a great deal of my life, I knew nothing about. I only know you because I found myself in desperate need of a perspective outside of my own personal familial tribe about 15 years ago when one of my children was diagnosed with severe mental illness. Staying within my tribe proved to be a lesson in futility very quickly because in my world mental illness was either from Satanic forces or poor choices, both of which were predicated on my husband’s and or my own poor parenting skills. It was a really difficult time for me but one that has utterly changed my life.
As I searched outside of my own culture’s boxes, I met gifted others who could accurately assess my child and intervene in a way that eventually led to much healing and restoration in our family. Ironically, this was the very thing that my life as an Evangelical Christian was devoted to but had proven unsuccessful in this situation. These insightful authors, teachers and professionals had one thing in common that I would have never imagined myself in need of, a very liberal worldview. But oh, how I did need it and how I need it now. That said, as I attempt to weave my way throughout the whole of my life, it has become clear to me that there is a great deal about the Midwest, Conservative, Republican, Evangelical side of my life, that those of you living outside of that world, are so far removed from, that I now understand why my peeps hate you so much. In essence, I finally get why you are seen as living in an ivory tower.
“From the 19th century, it has been used to designate an environment of intellectual pursuit disconnected from the practical concerns of everyday life.” (from the Wikipedia link above)
I AM now seen as living in that tower with you and yet I know that there is much about me that separates me from you. Let me share some of that with you.
First off, I was blessed to be able to go to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and get a BS in Elementary Education. I was the first person on both sides of my family to get a degree. I was very pleased with myself but I had no illusions about my academic prowess. I got through with a 3.0 GPA but here’s the deal. I have not one memory growing up being assisted in anyway by my parents where homework, support in athletics or music is concerned. They tried very much to be there for me but we were lower middle class, if not poor, for the first decade of my life. I went to five different schools from 4th -7th grades because my dad’s job demanded it. We didn’t have the luxury to stay in one place and keep our roots down in the ground very long. It took every ounce of determination I could muster to get through college and the one and only reason I made it through was that I promised myself that if I started it, I WOULD finish it.
My brother, who is a very wealthy businessman, got there with no college whatsoever. He was mentored by my father whose education had come from his time in the U.S. Air Force and from taking correspondence courses in engineering through the mail. To this day my dad would say that the time in the military saved his life. My brother is incredibly intelligent but he has never had a single class in a liberal arts or any other college. He presently manages several companies and farms corn and soybeans for a hobby.
I am incredibly proud of my family. I am equally proud of my own education and further educational pursuits in another university. I am a voracious reader, love to write and I am fascinated by those other than myself. I love all of this about me and my life but there is an incredible tension that exists in-between these two realities of my existence. So many times when I read the posts from you, my mentors in social justice, the environment and spiritual practices, I am in awe. At the same time, I catch myself saying all too often,
“Do you even realize what it is like to be so obsessed with putting food on your table that you can’t find 20 minutes to read to your child?”
“How on earth can you expect me to go green when I can’t even figure out how to pay for the mountain of medical bills from having a sick child -and yes, I have health insurance that I pay for.”
“How the hell do you expect me to grow and then cook all of my own food, when I can barely find the energy to clean my own toilet?”
“Africa, Ethiopia, Myanmar, sex-trafficking, racial justice, LGBT justice, elder abuse, black lives matter, the family of the cop that just got killed by a psychotic criminal…and the damn list goes on and on.”
The reality that you do not have any idea that as a result of my father and brother’s hard work, well over 100 people have jobs, have food for their children, have clothes for them to wear and might even have some money for retirement when they are old, really hurts me. It all seems lost to you as if you do in fact live in ivory towers so far away from the lives of real people.
This is my real life. It’s not what I read in the papers or see displayed on Fox News. Yes, my Midwestern, Conservative, Evangelical world drives me crazy but it is not made up of heartless savages. Many of my people in that world give thousands of dollars to their churches, to World Vision, to Feed the Hungry, to causes that would astonish you. They don’t expect the government to support those things, they do! They also go dig wells and build houses for the poor and provide medical care for those who have none otherwise. THEY ARE AS CARING AS YOU ARE!
Okay, now with that said, stay tuned because there will be another blog coming that will be written in your defense too. I have no idea what to do with my life where there is much love for both sides but I do think it has come to me for a reason and only time will reveal what those reasons are.
We are so blessed to be free and to be able to live and do as we want to with most of our lives…somehow we just have to find a way forward through the mist…more to come.