Growing up, Weston Cutter, professor of English, wanted to be a great many things: a basketball player for Duke University, a thief, a misfit a la “Atlas Shrugged” and Bon Jovi. Jon Bon Jovi.
“I think at age nine or so I would’ve done anything to be Jon – not be like him, but actually be him,” said Cutter.
Other members of your favorite Northwestern faculty cited other ambitions. As a lad, Dr. Laird Edman, professor of psychology, had astronomical aspirations. “I was dedicated to being the first human on Mars. I was going to be a space astronaut. It has only been the last few years when it has become clear to me that isn’t going to happen. It has been a traumatic realization.”
Some of our fearless Residence Life staff dreamed of pursuing noble professions. West RD Seth Currier dreamed of adventures as a youngster; “I always wanted to live overseas. I was really inspired by the missionaries. I had dreams of living in the jungles of Africa, the rainforests of South America or the Australian outback.”
Rebecca Alsum, RD of Stegenga Hall, wanted to write about such adventures. “I wanted to be a writer. Or a forest worker.”
In another life, Lisa Barber, Fern RD, dreamed of an illustrious cosmetology career. “I remember wanting to go to Yale to be a hairdresser. I don’t believe that’s even a major at Yale!”
And while hairdressing might not have worked out as she dreamt, Barber is among the presenters at this Wednesday’s Day of Learning in Community. This year’s theme – Faith at Work – aims to provide a day devoted to presentations and workshops that delve into questions of spirituality, success and satisfaction within the work world.
This week I caught up with some of the workshop presenters, all well-known faculty and staff at NW, to ask them their advice to students reimagining what it means to be a Christian in the workplace.
“I feel like our faith is connected to everything we do: moments with those that are hurting and need a listening ear and hug, moments where there is conflict or frustration and grace and mercy becomes real,” said Alsum. “These are what make up our lives and our work.”
Dr. Edman agreed, “It is clearer and clearer to me as I grow older: my faith is my life, and to try to live any part of my life disconnected from my faith, or not in concert with my faith, is to live a disintegrated life.”
When wrestling with questions of faith within the workplace, Currier suggests finding accountability and support from others. “Find a community that can support you, even if it is just one person. When you have someone with whom you can share your struggles and frustrations as well as joys it goes a long way.”
“Don’t stop wrestling,” urged Barber. “The process is important and the long term results will yield good things for you and the people you work with. Be present and open to other ideas and ways of living. Seek understanding.”
Edman pointed out that, “Our culture and our own proclivities pull us toward self-absorbed lives that are focused on living ‘The American Dream.’ I think we need to seriously interrogate that tendency. God is not calling us to a life of self-obsessed mediocrity. And so to our students wrestling with this issue: please, please, keep wrestling.”
“Don’t let the angel go until you get your blessing,” Edman advocated. “Even if it means you are injured. Faith and work: these are good things to wrestle with.”