Intercultural Responsiveness

A Blog By Tom Altepeter

Fear, Faith, And Forgiveness

It’s easy to wound. It’s hard to heal.

The day before I left school for Thanksgiving break, I spent good portions of my day working with two different pairs of students and their parents. We had meetings designed to repair damage left from harassment and fighting. In one case, a single student clearly felt wronged. In the other case, both students created and were left in pain. In both cases, the students and parents needed an opportunity to communicate their thoughts, feelings, and need for restoration. Having both a school resource officer sharing time in our building and another, as well as a restorative practices specialist for the district, helps immensely. There’s power in partnership.

The day after I left school for Thanksgiving break, I spent a small portion of my day on Skype with two colleagues. One from my very own school, and one from another part of the country. We discussed assessment, and it naturally led into conversation about both homework and grades. While we serve different populations of students, in different settings, with different approaches, our goals are the same. Effectively meeting the needs of those we serve is difficult. It requires intentional effort. It requires risk taking. It requires collaboration. There’s power in partnership.

Referencing the seventh chapter of Sotah from The Talmud, my colleague across the country briefly relayed to us the story of Nachshon ben Aminadav. It was he, according to the Rabbinic Midrash, who took the first step. Not until the sea was up to his nostrils did the waters part. This is not unlike the story from The Bible in the third chapter of Joshua where the priests carrying The Ark Of The Covenant actually had to touch their feet to the water of the flooding river for it to stop flowing. Fear prevents us from taking those first steps. Fear can paralyze us, limiting the fullness of our potential. It is the misplacement of faith that holds us in fear. We are gripped with the certainty of that in which we choose to place our faith. We need to make sure it’s the right thing.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formed in South Africa following the abolition of apartheid. While there are numerous examples of large scale injustices stretching across both history and the globe, both past and present, this is one example of something that could have created irreparable damage. And yet, due to the correctly placed faith of people, it hasn’t. Fear could have won. It could have been the story. Fear, however, was and is not the story. Rather, faith overcame fear, and it led to something far greater in which we can place our certainty.

The students I spoke with just a couple days ago have a ways to go. They will need to make intentional decisions on a daily basis over a long period of time to repair the damage caused by their actions. But, they took the first step. They overcame the fear which could have kept them still. They embraced a faith which will keep them moving. And, they are on a path of forgiveness which will release a world of opportunities.

I want that world of opportunities. Don’t you?

One Response to “Fear, Faith, And Forgiveness”

  • Anaka says:

    Very insightful. Thanks for sharing!

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