Kelsie Harriman: Where Was God? The Horror at St. Famille

There is a Catholic church in Kigali, Rwanda called St. Famille. It is a large structure made of red bricks that stands on a hill overlooking the city of Kigali. Today, the church is well-known and widely used by locals; mass is held in St. Famille every weekday morning at 6:45am, as well as three times each Sunday.

St. Famille is also one of the many Rwandan churches that became a site of human slaughter in 1994. During Rwanda’s Genocide, people would often seek refuge in the country’s churches in that hopes that the House of God would protect from the hell that was unfolding outside.  Often, though, these churches were not a place of sanctuary, but of massacre. There are numerous documented accounts of priests who offered refuge to people in their parish, only later allow or to orchestrate the slaughter of the innocent people whom they had lured inside. Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, the vicar of St. Famille during the Genocide, was one such priest. He is said to have openly commanded the Interahamwe militia to kill the Tutsi in his church, and he has been accused of actively participating in the rape of women and girls within the halls of his parish.

After the Genocide, Munyeshyake was charged with genocide, complicity in genocide, torture, ill-treatment and inhuman and degrading acts and sentenced in absentia to life in prison by the Rwandan Military Court in 2006 (The Hague). However, his case was later referred to a criminal tribunal in France, which dropped all charges against Munyeshyaka in 2015. Munyeshyake is now a free man, and he actively serves as a priest of two parishes in France.

It was with the horror of this injustice that I entered St. Famille for the first time this weekend. Munyeshyake – and the countless other “religious leaders” who participated in the Genocide – claimed to worship the same God that I do. Who is this God, and where was He when His priests were raping and killing innocent people in His name? What happened to the God of the blameless Rwandan, the God that I worship, the God of redemption and love who is described in Isiah  63?

In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

I am sure, at least,  of where my God was not. He was not in heart of Munyeshyake, or of the perpetrators who lost themselves in slaughter of the innocent people in St. Famille in 1994. He was not in the wood and the stone and the nails that compose the “Holy House” that became a place of carnage. He was not in the extravagant robes and the drapes and the ornate decorations that today give St. Famille a sense of majesty.

IMG_4768When I was standing in St. Famille, I saw my God in only one place: the crucifix behind the center alter. I saw  my God only in the suffering Jesus who looks over the sanctuary at St. Famille and bore witness to every rape and murder that occurred in the church in 1994. In those days, my God was in the Jesus  who cried out as he died on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

I am sorrowfully silent about where the Angel of His presence described Isaiah 63 was during the Rwandan Genocide. It certainly seems that he was not around in the summer of 1994 to redeem the one million people who were killed by their priests, their friends, and their neighbors.

Hence, I cannot speak to the reason for this Angel’s absence in 1994, but I can speak on behalf of a Jesus who hung on the cross two thousand years before. That Jesus suffered, bled, and died alongside every Rwandan who was killed in the Genocide.

When I stood in St. Famille and pondered the horrors that took place inside, I could not speak, I could not think, and I could not offer explanation. All I could do is point to the image of the dying Jesus behind the center alter, and tell myself that somehow, someway, while my brothers and sisters were suffering inside of St. Famille in 1994, my God was in Jesus, hanging on across, and suffering too.

A suffering Jesus is only half the story, however, and a tragedy such as the Rwandan Genocide makes me  yearn even more desperately for the day when the Angel of His Presence will return to finish the tale by making right all the the world’s evils. Until then, however, we must wait patiently in our suffering, but not without hope – for we have been promised a day when we will be carried by that Angel to a place where pain will touch us no longer.

IMG_4763

Helen Ho: The Invisibility of Depression

A guest post from a dear friend of mine, Helen Ho. Helen, I wish you all the best, and pray for God’s guidance and comfort as you continue on your journey. 

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When I talk to counselors, they would ask me when the depression started. I remember vividly: it was the spring quarter of my third year in college. There was a particular day, actually. I came back home from a really great fellowship to an empty apartment. It was as if I came face to face with the loneliness that haunted me in the shadows. I think I went to bed crying that night and the crying continued from that day onward, with me in my room, sobbing over my life, carrying pain inextricably deep in my soul. I didn’t understand what was wrong–I simply tried to keep on living. I thought I was simply burned out from school, needed a break and to change my living situation. I held on tightly to the hope that the school year would end soon.

Fourth year came along and I decided I would toughen up. I would no longer play games with sadness and get on with it. Maybe if I ran fast enough, I could outrun my feelings. I wanted to live excellently and honor God in every aspect of my life. So, I didn’t sleep much, and studied, worked, and strove hard against my depression. The whole time, I thought there was something wrong with me: I was simply lazy, was simply romanticizing sadness, was this and was that. The tears came anyways and, due to the work and stress load, my anxiety increased to the point where I was not able to sleep well at night.

At the end of Autumn quarter, during finals week, I sat in my room and words I didn’t plan to speak came out of my mouth, “I hate myself.” It continued: “I hate my life” and “I don’t want to live.” Then, I cried a little, grabbed my backpack and biked over to the library to study for the GREs. I didn’t know what to do and still had applications to fill out. At the end of 2015, I went to a conference for Christian students called Urbana, and upon praying with someone and opening up to my roommates, I realized I was actually depressed. I wasn’t making it all up in my head.

I wanted to attack my depression with gusto. During Winter quarter, I started to meet with a therapist, told my friends about what was going on to ask them for support, and was ready to get rid of this emotional issue within the next month or so. But it wasn’t so easy. I saw my therapist downtown and it was tiring to get there every week, the process was slow, and some weeks felt even worse than before I started to tackle the whole thing. I had a hard time explaining to my friends what was going on with me, had a hard time getting some to even believe me, and then had a hard time getting myself to believe that I wasn’t okay.

I wonder why God didn’t just heal me if He had the power to. Why did it have to be such a grueling process? Why couldn’t I just be okay? My life felt like such a mess, I couldn’t do anything–doing dishes, my laundry and getting out of bed was a struggle.

And the journey continues even until now. Things have gotten better. I’ve made some good friends along the way, resolved a variety of emotional issues that had plagued me, learn to give myself more grace and perhaps like myself a little more than before. But the emotional difficulties remain a constant.

Depression is difficult to deal with. Everything happens inside. Externally, my life is fairly swell–there’s not much for concern. People have a hard time understanding why I’m depressed because of this I think…and sometimes I have a hard time understanding it myself. I try counting my blessings on my fingers, holding up all the good that I have in my hand. I end up feeling guilty that I’m not enjoying my life more.

This may all seem very pessimistic but depression is a sobering reality which plagues a large number of our generation. However, I do have hope that I will one day be a very happy camper because God is good. And I have hope that my own experiences will be able to help me help others because, again, God is good.

Kelsie Harriman: Trust Me

Most of us are very careful about who we trust.  From childhood, we are filled with a fear of strangers and friends will with ill intent. Lend someone your money, and you may never again see it; give a man your time, and you may never get it back; reveal to a woman your heart, and she may choose to break it.  Caution is the name of the game.

I’ve always approached life with a healthy dose of skepticism, which until this point, it has served me quite well.  I am  very careful about who I trust; I won’t lend my money, my time, or my heart, to someone I don’t know well.

But life is full of change and new beginnings, and there will always be times when we find ourselves in situations where we don’t know anyone well.  In these moments, the wise words of Ernest Hemingway ring true: the only way to discover if we are able to trust someone is to start trusting them.

And this is absolutely terrifying.

I grew up in a small town in Montana, where everyone knew everyone, so it was quite shocking to come to Rwanda personally knowing only five people in the country and being completely unable to communicate. If I wanted food or water or directions around the city, I had two choices: figure it out myself, or trust someone to help me. I quickly learned that the “figuring it out for myself” option was rarely a sufficient means to meet my needs, which has left me to wallow in the discomfort of my only alternative: trust.

Take, for example, transportation. One of the primary means of navigating the Kigali is by moto, which is a small motor bike with two seats and two helmets, one each for passenger and driver. Locals take motos like they drink water — but I am most obviously not a local.  I am totally comfortable with Uber, but for some reason, I find it very unsettling to get on the backseat of a motorcycle driven by a person with whom I have no means to communicate.

Up until now, the moto-riding process for non-native me has gone something like this: I flag down a moto. I greet the driver with my approximate version of the Kinyarwanda  “hello,” then dial a local friend to ask them to give directions  in Kinyarwanda to the driver. I spend the entirety of the ride going down unfamiliar streets praying all the while that the stranger I am sitting behind is a good and honest person who will take me safely to my destination. So far, my prayers worked.

If you come to visit me in Kigali, I will suggest that you take moto exactly in this manner. And if you are anything like me, you will be terrified.

Often in life, however, we have no choice but to get on the back of a stranger’s moto and pray to God that everything is going to be ok. Sometimes, we must resign ourselves to being pulled through a maze of dark and unfamiliar streets, wondering all the while why we agreed to get on the moto in the first place. The driver of our fate receives the directions form Someone on high in a language we find unintelligible, leaving us with no idea where we are going or how to get there.

You needn’t despair, however. Although I may never fully trust Kigali moto drivers, you, like me, can have confidence in the friends who give our drivers directions.  Likewise, we can have confidence in the guidance of He Who Is on High, for if it is His will that we arrive at our destination safely, surely, we will.

We will all encounter moments when we can lean not on our own understanding. In these times, we have no choice to trust in Someone who knows the right way, and jump on the bike of a stranger’s moto in faith that – Lord willing – we will arrive at the right destination.

Kelsie Harriman: The Unfinished Story

There are stories from Rwanda I have not been telling you.

There are stories from Rwanda the world has not been telling you, either.

Since relaying the saga of the missing key,wherein I was apparently locked out my house and left to wallow in tears, dust, and self-pity on my front porch, I’ve over and over again been asked the same question: was I ever able to get back into the house? The flood of inquiries has made me realized that I published an unfinished story.

The short answer? Yes, I was able to get back into my house.

The long answer? Only moments after finishing keying the final words of the story of the missing key, I phoned my friend’s sister to relay my plight. She answered immediately, offered her sympathy, then asked me to hand the phone to a passing moto driver so that she could give him directions. Within half an hour, the moto driver dropped me off at the home of the family whom she was visiting. I was warmly welcomed.

Soon after arriving, the sister and her boyfriend took me out to watch a men’s basketball game at a local sports club. They made a point to find me a seat in the overcrowded arena, bought me a chips and soda, introduced me to all of their friends, and politely answered the plethora of questions I had about the sport of basketball and Rwandan culture. After the game, the sister took me back to her home, fed me, stayed up to chat until two in the morning, and then gave a pair of her own pair of pajamas to sleep in.

I’ve only ever before experienced hospitality like that from my immediate family, and I did not know how to respond to the same kind of generosity from a girl I had met only four days previously. I resorted to saying a genuine “thank you” during every pause in conversation until she stopped me and said, “Quit thanking me. What I have, I will share. That is just how things work in Rwanda.”

This is the unfinished story: unrivaled generosity, superfluous hospitality, and undue kindness, even from those who owe you nothing. A tale of locked doors that open easily the next morning, either because the strange man on the moto came just like he promised, or because the door was perhaps never really locked, and only jammed, in the first place. Now, I am left asking myself why I chose tell the second half of my tale – the one washed in bright colors of love and of friendship – only after being pestered about my narrative’s incompleteness.

There is a certain responsibility that comes with storytelling. Writers are the eyes and the ears of the world. If they produce only unfinished stories, their readers will soon come to believe that these partial narratives are the whole truth.

And mine is not the only unfinished story in Rwanda. Yesterday, I visited the Kigali Genocide memorial, wherein 250,000 of the one million corpses produced in 1994 are entombed. After two hours of graphic words and gruesome pictures, I wanted nothing but to get out. I actually really needed to see all of memorial’s im
ages of bloated bodies and ransacked homes, though. Sometimes, we must stop sugar-coating evil with self-serving, fabricated optimism IMG_4384.JPGand accept despair and of evil for what they really are. The Kigali Genocide Memorial understands this.

But the Kigali Genocide Memorial, just like the story of the missing key, is only telling half of the story. We must never diminish the truth of the horrors the Memorial

presents, but horror is not the only narrative. Even in genocide, there are stories of hope. Behind every man with a machete, there is another who chooses to endanger himself in order to protect his neighbor.  Behind every locked door, there is an angel who takes you in and treats you as a member of her own family.

That is just how things work in Rwanda.

 

Kelsie Harriman: The Missing Key and My Relative Problems

Currently, I am sitting on the floor of my dusty front porch in Kigali, Rwanda, but not in order that I may enjoy the sunset. My roommates are away for the weekend, and I neglected to ask for a house key before they left, so I’ve been locked out. I’ve contacted the roommates, and they’ve apparently phoned a man nearby who has the key and told him to bring it here to let me in. I don’t know who this man is, or when he is arriving, but I hope he comes and opens my door, because I am not sure what to do if he doesn’t.

Dependence. I thought I had learned how to speak, eat, find water, go to the bathroom, and open my own door sometime during elementary school, but that seems not to be the case.  It is frustrating and frightening to be in a place where you can’t speak the language, because there will be times when cannot help yourself and are forced ask for others to assist you. I can jimmy this lock all I want, and I speak English to anyone who will listen, but neither of these things are going to open my door. I have no choice but to sit and wait on strange man, who most likely speaks a language I don’t understand, to come and assist me.

My two Rwandan neighbors are a few yards away peeling potatoes. We can’t communicate because my Kinyarwanda is even worse than their English, but I think they’ve realized I’ve been locked out. I wonder what they think of the American girl who made a bunch of nervous phone calls, then sat down in resignation on her dusty front porch, pulled out a fancy-looking laptop, and started writing a blog for her American friends about dependence in a foreign country. I really don’t think it matters to them much; I’d venture a guess that they have more serious matters to attend to.

Relative Problems

I’ve been feeling sorry for myself for the last few minutes, and I’ve realized I need to cut the self-pity. Problems are relative, and there are a lot of people around here who’d give a whole lot to have their weekend’s biggest trouble being locked out of their house.

Yesterday, I ventured into Kigali with the help of a friend, ironically, to make a copy of my gate key (thus, why I am sitting inside my gate on my porch, and not outside my  gate on the street). When we embarked, I envisioned the key-copying process would be similar to that which I had experienced growing up: you drive to ACE hardware, and one of those guys in the red vests takes your key, puts it in a fancy machine, and returns to you an exact replica. Apparently, this is not the Rwandan way.

In Rwanda, you climb a dirt hill side of lean-to homes until you reach the key-man’s shop, which you distinguish from the structures beside it only by asking the locals loitering outside. You give the key man fifty cents, and then he begins to craft a handmade replica of your key on a smooth strip of metal with old, rusted tools. While the process is taking place, you don’t mosey around looking at lawn furniture and eating free popcorn like you do at ACE Hardware; you sit, and you wait, and you talk to the key man’s family.

Yesterday found pasty-white-ace-hardware-patron me sitting in the key man’s shop. My Rwandan friend was with me, and he translated what the key man’s family was saying:

Key Man’s Wife to Rwandan friend: She’s from America?

Rwandan Friend: Yes, she’s from America.

Key Man’s Wife: Do you think she’d take my children from me and raise them America?

Rwandan Friend: Kelsie, will you take this woman’s children from her and raise them in America?

Kelsie: (Nervous laugh) Ha! Funny.

Rwandan Friend: Kelsie, she’s not kidding.

        Oh.

I looked again at the key man’s children. One was chewing on his sandal; the other was petting a sickly-looking cat. Both were covered in dirt. Their house had no door. May the fifty cents I had given the key man was all that they had to buy breakfast tomorrow, I didn’t know. If I was the key man’s wife, I’d probably want the visiting white lady to take my kids and raise them in her rich country, too.

Perspective

Since arriving in Rwanda, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve considered to be my life’s challenges. I used to be terrified of spending the night away from home – because I had a family who loved me, and on whom I could depend. I struggled with disordered eating – because I had the money and luxury to be choosy about my food. I’ve complained that my university is unduly stressful — because I fail to appreciate that there are people who would give anything to have the opportunities my education affords me.

When you come from a world of fancy machines and flawless replicas, it is easy to cry when you do not have a shiny new key when you need one. The walls of that world which I formerly inhabited are falling down around me now, however, as I sit on my front porch in Rwanda, waiting indefinitely for the strange man to bring me a key that may or may not even open my door.

It’s time I get out of this dust and my tears and go try to make conversation with my potato-peeling neighbors because if I learn to understand their stories, I am sure I would see that the missing key and the locked door are, in fact, not problems at all.

 

Kelsie Harriman: Not My Race to Run

Today, over two years after leaving competitive running, I have begun to decipher the cryptic comments of a former cross country coach. The words are wise, and they contain meaning far beyond the context in which they were first spoken.

          Don’t worry about your competitors. Run your own race.

While running competitively for my high school, I sorely misinterpreted what these words meant. In those days, when my coach would stand with me on the starting line and urge me to “run my own race,” all I heard was “You probably aren’t going to do that well, so please don’t be too hard on yourself.” This, of course, is not what my coach meant. But this is what a young girl, who fed off of competition and was paralyzed by her own insecurities, decided to hear.

I just finished my second year of college, and I am now beginning to see the race that is before me. My race, not the race of the others around me. I came to college ready to better myself and build my successes, convinced that at the end of it all, I would possess the power and prestige that my elite education promised me. I’ve spent two years running that race – the scramble to the top of the ladder that the world, and my peers, and my educational institution told me I should be running – and I felt very out of place. I wanted desperately to compete in the contest of achievement in which the people around me were engaged, and I felt behind and unhappy until just recently, when the words of my coach, which been dormant in my life since the day they were spoken, resurfaced in Hebrews 12:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

 The problem is not the race in which I am participating, but rather that I am trying to run it someone else’s way. God put me in a contest of accomplished, educated, career-driven intellectuals, and then He asked me to fix my eyes on Him and not the people around me. I’ve often wished that my competitors were running the  same way that God has asked me to run, so that when I look left and look right, I could discern what ought to be done from others around me. God has not done this for me, however. Maybe He knew, like my coach did so many years ago, that if I am able to model my behavior based on someone else’s example, I will. And I’ll never learn to run a race for myself.

Tomorrow, I leave for Rwanda to start the next leg of my race, the one that has been specially marked out for me to run. If look left and look right, I see a sea of competitors running to large cities and prestigious careers, but I know now that that is not my race to run. God has asked me to run much differently, and I am setting out to do so with as much courage and perseverance as I can muster.

Where ever you are at today – whatever race you happen to be running – remember that God has put you there for a reason. Maybe, like me, at times you feel totally out of place –your competitors are outpacing you, and the terrain you are crossing feels too rough or too steep for you to traverse. You look left and right at the people around you, and you are sure you are running exactly the wrong way.

I encourage you to stop looking around, and start looking up. The race you are running and the people against whom you are competing matter nothing. Wins and losses matter nothing. All we can do is run with perseverance the race that has been marked out for us without too much concern for how the rest of the  world is running.

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I’ve thought about running one’s own race well before; see also my graduation speech from 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYNqelq9YO0

 

Kelsie Harriman: “Heard”

I’ve been feeling lonely lately.

Not the gaping, “Oh-he-left-me-and -I-have-no-friends” kind of lonely. From time to time, we are all going to experience the acute sorts of disconnection that accompany deaths, broken relationships, and major changes in circumstances. One cannot be human and altogether avoid these feelings.

The kind of loneliness I’ve been experiencing of is far more elusive than this. With no apparent cause, and no predictable arrival, a vague, free-floating sense of disconnection has lately been coming to visit me . I have taken it upon myself to discover where this kind of loneliness comes form, and what, if anything, can be done about it.

Where is the Loneliness Coming from?

There is an obvious, and yet fundamentally unsatisfying, response to this question. Loneliness – even the vague, untraceable sort of loneliness of which I speak — is circumstantial. People are lonely if the environment they are in is conducive to isolation.

After spending two years at the University of Chicago, I’ve habituated to blaming my loneliness on my environment. A university whose not-so-official slogan is “Where fun comes to die,” may not, at face value, appear to be breeding grounds for social connection.  When I was making the decision about where to attend college, I was very concerned about the University of Chicago’s reputation for depression and social isolation. I was afraid that my emotional self, which was not particularly stable at the end of my high school career, was likely to fall victim to the university’s inhospitable environment. Students there are lonely, I was told. And lonely was not something that I wanted to be.

I am now nearly half-way done with my University of Chicago education, and instead of studying for finals (as I should be), I am writing a blog about loneliness. Seems like my fears have been realized.

True, except for the fact that I am certain that my passing feelings of loneliness have very little to do with busy environment at the University of Chicago.

Students are busy, yes. But we are also made to believe that we are supposed to feel this way: if we are not over-worked, burned out, and in a constant scramble to finish assignments that  we have been forced to neglect in lou of other, more pressing obligations, we have been made to believe that we are doing something wrong.

Even if we don’t have an assignment due tomorrow, and we really could spend several hours in the dining hall just chatting, we are probably not going to admit that, especially to a fellow student. We are probably going to conclude our conversations at the socially acceptable length of one hour, inform our companions that “we are very sorry that we have to leave, but we have work to do.” We are then going to go to the library, perhaps feeling like we should do the work that we had only just implied was so pressing, and then unproductively alternate between working and checking Facebook. We are then going to return to our dorms, where we will fall asleep periodically checking our phone in the hopes that we will receive a text message from a friend, all the while wondering why we feel alone.

I believe the University of Chicago’s reputation for depression and loneliness comes from the perception that the student body is over-burned, over-worked, and over-busy. While this may be true, it it is also the case of countless other people in society. And more importantly, I do not think University of Chicago students, or members of the over-burned, over-worked world in general, are lonely because we are busy. No, we busy because we are lonely.

Busy Because We Are Lonely?

Think about the last time you had time to kill.  Maybe you arrived at a designated meeting place before your companion’s arrival, or you were stuck waiting in a long line. What did you do during that time? You pulled out your phone. You checked Facebook, email, and news updates. Don’t worry, so did I, because that is the socially acceptable thing to do. No one wants to be seen in public doing nothing. Who would go to a coffee shop, alone, and just look at the window? Who would sit on a park bench, alone, and just watch the world around them?

In an increasingly busy and disconnected world, we’ve become terrified of being unoccupied. If we are not interacting with another person, we need to be doing something. Anything, really, but particularly something that seems important, so that others will assume we are alone because we are working on something of high priority. Technology has provided us with a frighteningly effective solution to this problem. By yourself? Feeling bored? Don’t worry, just starting doing something on your phone. Everyone will assume you’re up to something important, and no one will bother you.

Giving ourselves more to do is a very effective cover for loneliness. It doesn’t matter if the obligations we have are real or perceived. Either way, a burgeoning schedule serves as a safeguard against interacting with our own thoughts and with other people. It is a buffer against someone who is apt to disrupt our lineup of obligations by asking how we are doing, and actually expecting an answer that we are unable or willing to give. It is a defense to ensure that no one—especially ourselves – has time to realize how insecure we are actually feeling.

Too Busy to Be Heard

I very minor incident took place this week that helped me articulate exactly why the notion of loneliness scares me so much.  This morning, an acquaintance of mine who I will call Dave, was walking toward me in an empty hallway on campus. Dave and I made eye contact. As you know, I’ve been feeling lonely, so I wanted to greet Dave and perhaps have a short conversation. “Good morning, Dave,” I said. “Good to see you. How’ve you been?” To my surprise, Dave did not answer me. Rather, he averted his gaze and walked passed me without speaking at all. Intense feelings of embarrassment and self-consciousness welled up in me. Am I that unpleasant to talk to? Then I saw Dave was wearing his headphones. Oh, that’s OK. Dave just didn’t hear me. Dave probably had more important things to be doing.

In a world where obligations, and not people, have become our highest priority, I am afraid of not being heard. I am afraid that the pair of headphones Dave has put between me and him, or the overbooked schedules that so many of us hide behind, will overtime condition us not to “intrude” in each other’s lives, lest we be interrupting something important. I am afraid that when I really need to talk to someone, or someone really needs to talk to me, we will be met with nothing more than a preponderance of closed doors and unopened text messages.

What Can We Do About It?

If there is anyone like me afraid of not being heard, I have discovered a solution. Listen. Listen attentively, listen long, and listen to literally anyone who will talk to you.  Because chances are, people do have time to talk, even if they can’t admit it to themselves or anyone else. And chances are that you, too, have time to listen.

I have learned many things at the University of Chicago, by far the most important being that life can become very, very dark when one “doesn’t have time” for people. No wonder the over-burdened and over-worked are feeling alone: we are all “fitting each other in” during the 45-minute windows we have between one obligation and the next.

I am the first to admit that I have often been guilty of this. There are countless times where I have not made people the priority. Living in an environment where this practice is something of an epidemic, however, has made me resolve to change my ways, and I am learning how to do this through the example of others. A dear friend of mine often proposes to hang out by simply stating, “I want to waste your time.” In a world where there is apparently no time to waste, I consider it an honor that she wants to waste that time with me. She cares about the seemingly unimportant, inconsequential details of one my life that cannot be expressed in a strictly regimented 45-minute lunch. By this friend, I am heard.

My challenge, then, to all of us, is to be the kind of person who listens. The kind of person who is willing to waste time, and waste it with anyone. Talk to the security guard on the corner. Learn the names of the staff who work cafeteria. Listen attentively to anyone who talks to you, and when you are able, don’t put a time limit on conversations. If we all had a little more time to listen, and if we were all a little more willing to waste each other’s time, I believe our fears of not being heard would greatly subside. And you never know – you may come to find that the very best place to hear your own voice is in the stories of others.