Driving, Dreaming

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Matthew Henry Smith, ’16

Last night I had a dream that the sun was setting and I was in the car with my parents. My father was driving, my mother was beside him in the passenger seat, and I was sitting in the back fraught with confusion. I was confused because my father, Francis, was telling my mother and me about all of the things he wanted to do. Some of the things were small household tasks and others were plans big enough to change the world. I leaned forward, putting my hand on his shoulder and tenderly told him that he could not do these things because he had died. He became angry and shook off my hand, telling me that it wasn’t true. How it could be true if he was driving? My mother never moved, just keeping her eyes on the road. I woke up in tears.


My father spent so much of the last four years in hospitals that the past few weeks without him haven’t been totally foreign in feeling. And beyond the usual, “He was suffering and now it’s a blessing that he is at peace,” I haven’t verbalized the permanence of his absence. Then again, things are starting to come to my attention, like when the front door opens in the evening and I find myself expecting to hear the dog bark, my dad’s briefcase thud to the floor and my mother to call out, “Stand up; your father’s home.” Now the dog barks, the door opens, and a stranger delivers flowers. They are beautiful but they are not my father.

We have all gone back to work and to the places where we live, finding purpose in the busyness, new joys tinged with melancholy. I often begin to message my dad when I find good news to share, but then close my phone when I realize the futility of this action. Moving on will take a long time and the process will likely be a jarring sequence of bangs and busts.

Yet the dream I had last night has me thinking differently. Liturgically speaking we are in a time of Lent, when Catholics walk with Christ on his journey of sacrifice. Despite this, in my heart it is Pentecost, the celebration of Christ sending his Holy Spirit to guide the Apostles in spreading the Gospel. I believe the spirit of my father has interrupted my efforts to move on by reminding me of the work he has yet to do.

In my dream, my father wasn’t incredulous because he couldn’t accept his own death; he was incredulous that I could not see beyond it. I was like Thomas, doubting the miraculous, assuming that my life would be forever devoid of the man who raised me. But it isn’t like that at all. My father shaped my moral compass and remains involved in my choices, each, in part, a reflection of his values. As the Holy Spirit guides all of us who mourn the death of Christ and hope in his resurrection, the living spirit of my father guides me, my family and all who he touched.

Last night I did not dream of my father; my father came to meet me in my dream. And he told me that his work isn’t finished. And he told me not to doubt that it could be done.  And my mother keeps her eyes on the road because she knows it is so. She is driven by my father and, now reminded, so am I. He wanted me to see that.

My father lives and it is true because he is driving.

 

Matthew has been a contributor to Friarside Chats since April of 2013. This is his final post.

“No Justice, No Peace”

Cheesefest PictureGuest Chat – Eric Rivera, PC ’16

You may be wondering what happened outside your window last night. Why were a group of students walking around campus with signs and chanting “No Justice, No Peace”? Last night was another instance that showed me why Providence College is the best place in the world. Last night, the news came out that Darren Wilson, the officer that shot and killed Mike Brown, will not be indicted. Many people, including myself, were absolutely outraged because of this news. Personally, I was frustrated to the point where I needed to seclude myself. I use this as a method to fully reflect and try to process difficult information. This information was difficult for me to understand because I do not understand why somebody will not be going to trial for murdering another human being. After learning about the news I took a walk to the BMSA office where other students were talking about what had just occurred. While sitting in the office I received an email from one of my classmates and a fellow leader on campus, Kadene Pitter ’16, saying that there would be a peaceful protest starting on the Slavin Lawn at midnight. The time was exactly 11:30PM when I received the email. I read the email to the rest of the people in the room, and a rush of excitement ran through my veins. It was beautiful to see a student-run movement be organized in 30 minutes. We are creating our own voice in a society where it is so easy to feel like we are silenced.

I arrived to Slavin Lawn at midnight and saw a few students ready to march. I was skeptical due to a small showing of people and the lack of preparation but at 12:10, after setting a few ground rules, the small group of Providence College students began to march. “Black lives matter” and “No Justice, No Peace” rang through Slavin Lawn and the upper quad. The feeling of solidarity was beautiful. This feeling completely took over my body and made me forget about all of my nerves, fear, and hesitation. Seeing our group grow and hearing the chants get louder put me in awe. The way the small group materialized into a huge crowd of people walking for the same purpose was inspiring. This peaceful protest was an example of our PC students from all walks of life coming together for a cause. This was an amazing display of diversity and how our diverse group of people was able to put differences aside so that similarities could create something special. It is very easy to put yourself into a category based on your interests and who you feel comfortable around, but this protest took us all out of our comfort zones and brought us all together. We truly came together as a “Friar Family”.

This Friar Family kept walking around campus yelling chants such as, “Justice for Mike Brown” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot”. We walked from Slavin to the chapel, then found ourselves walking in front of Guzman crossing Huxley Avenue onto lower campus, we then passed Davis, Bedford, and Suites, and eventually walked through the Fennell gates, and walked along Eaton Street going towards upper campus. Our group then walked back to the chapel, up towards Harkins Hall and eventually out of the main gate on River Avenue. From the main gate we walked up Eaton Street behind Al Mag and Ruane. Our March took a turn behind the library to head back to the quad where our protest concluded with a few words from the students that coordinated the event. Throughout these 40 minutes we were able to let our lights shine by standing together and expressing our opinions about an injustice that occurred last night. We stood in solidarity for the loss of Mike Brown. Today I am proud to be a Friar.

I’d like to thank Kadene Pitter and the others that set up this peaceful protest. You are amazing, and your initiative is something I envy. It isn’t easy to organize a group of people that are filled with anger and rage to peacefully display their emotions and opinions, but you were able to do so in a short amount of time and make this protest a huge success. Shout out to you. I would like to thank everybody that was a part of this protest and was able to help create a night that I will never forget. For everybody that is out there wondering where we go from here, I encourage you to stay positive. I know it’s hard to believe right now after this decision and many decisions in the pastm but as the chorus of Tupac’s famous song, Keep Ya Head Up goes, “Oh child, things are gonna get easier. Oh child, things will get brighter.” Enjoy your Thanksgiving breaks, tell your families you love them, and remain positive. Go Friars!


Eric Rivera junior from San Diego, CA. He is majoring in Political Science and minoring in Public Administration, Spanish, and Economics. He takes pride in being an RA, a devoted member of BMSA, and a student coordinator for the Horizons Retreat. Eric cares about creating community and promoting the Friar Family.  

52%: a Bazaar Opportunity

shoot3“God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”   -Genesis 1:28

Do you know what the most dangerous animal on the planet is? You. Yes you! Congratulations. We’re there! We did it! With the World Wildlife Foundation reporting that since 1970 humans have wiped out 52% of all wildlife on planet earth we can successfully say it has been subdued. As a recent article from The Telegraph describes, “Almost the entire decline is down to human activity, through habitat loss, deforestation, climate change, over-fishing and hunting.”

But of course the earth hasn’t been subdued. It has been inundated. It has been overwhelmed. And it is responding with unstable weather patterns and climate changes. This is climate chaos, and our dwindling biodiversity is leaving us at tremendous risk of a systems collapse. There is a reflexive nature to our actions in this world and the more we subjugate what’s wild around us the more precarious our own situation becomes.

You might think things are observably OK because you saw five or six squirrels on your way to your 1 o’clock class, but even those grey squirrels aren’t naturally occurring in this urban area and were put here by our ancestors to ease our spirits.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I can’t fall asleep, my mind preoccupied by the quandary of the human mission on earth. Certainly I am proud of my species – man which surpasses man – and of what we have accomplished. But I can’t help  interpreting these facts as a reflection of our skewed execution of the Genesis Model: rather than becoming stewards to creation we have become masters of disaster.

So I’ve hatched a plan, and I’m going to need your help. Over the next four days I will be collecting all of the clothes you no longer  want or need, and then on Saturday I’m going to sell them back to you. That’s right, this is the  Providence Exchange Vintage Bazaar  and it’s an opportunity for our community to unite in an effort to challenge our own habits and protect the environment. At PC we spend quite a bit of money on new clothing and by shopping at corporate retailers which contributes to the destruction of the environment through industrial capitalism. This week I am asking you to donate your old clothes and shoes to me (but not coats – save those for a warm coat drive!) before Friday. Then, on Saturday, you are invited to come to the Bazaar at the Unity Center in Lower Slavin and shop through the clothing that our Friar Family has compiled. All proceeds will go to the World Wildlife Foundation. The Providence Exchange Vintage Bazaar takes what has historically been an American method of coping with crisis (consumerism) and inverts its negative impact (if only for a day). Why not donate directly to folks in need? Well, in a sense you will be. Everything is connected, and the folks who are typically marginalized for socio-economic reasons are also the folks who are disproportionately at risk of experiencing the perils of climate chaos. Fight hunger, fight war, fight the (literally) rising tide. Go shopping on Saturday.

Oh, and you’ll have one more opportunity, and this is perhaps the most important part of all.

On Saturday, at the Bazaar, we’ll be kicking off a campaign to petition for the creation of a Council for Climate Change Preparedness at Providence College. As you know PC is doing wonderful things and we provide an invaluable service to the City of Providence and its residents. Every year we graduate brilliant young people who go out into the world to seek justice and good living. To achieve all of this we have had to increase our capacity through the development of the Ruane Center, the Smith Center, the Slavin Center, the Schneider Arena, the Ray Treacy Track. Indeed, these developments have allowed us to draw tomorrow’s leaders, writers and teachers through our doors, but building has a cost beyond the dollar amount: the carbon cost. While have some impressive bioswales for processing the storm-water from our parking lots, a solar panel on Slavin that powers some of its lights and a plethora of Hydration Stations around campus thanks to the efforts of Think Outside the Bottle and Student Congress, we don’t seem to have a comprehensive strategy for dealing with climate change. But our competition does: Holy Cross plans to be carbon neutral by 2040. 

If you were to do a web search for “Providence College and Sustainability” you get a link to a three paragraph page that talks about how we recycle on campus. Recycling is last in the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” mantra because it is a least effective last resort option that comes with its own carbon cost. And while we will probably start composting next year this will only be in compliance with Rhode Island State Law. The Sustainable Endowments Institutes gathers information from academic institutions and compiles it into Green Report Cards. Providence college submitted our information to them in 2010 and the grade we received was a C- (Boston College and Holy Cross both boast B’s).

We need the creation of a Council for Climate Change Preparedness to advise our Board of Trustees in the making of every development decision and the creation of every strategic plan. It all goes back to that first responsibility God ever gave us in the book of Genesis, and who would we be as a Catholic institution if we didn’t give this reality some very specific attention? The folks at the top may not pay attention to this unless they believe it’s marketable, and they won’t believe it’s marketable unless the student body demonstrates interest. If you believe the Providence College should be a leader in Christian environmentalism come out on Saturday and show your interest by signing the petition. Join your friends at the Providence Exchange Vintage Bazaar, where we’ll exchange threads, empower consumers and (maybe) save the planet.  It starts with 52% and a C-, and I think that’s a Bazaar opportunity.

The Providence Exchange Vintage Bazaar will take place on Saturday, November 22nd from 12-5pm in the Balfour Unity Center of Lower Slavin. Please feel free to visit our website and follow us on twitter. If you would like to donate clothing contact the Organizer: msmith44@friars.providence.edu. 

Sources:

Sarah Knapton – The Telegraph 

Jason Bittle – Slate

The United Nations News Center

The College Sustainability Report Card

Fortune Telling in Chicago

shoot3I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget the eerie circumstances of October 9th. I was visiting my partner in Chicago and we were walking down his street towards toward a promising night out. Allen was eagerly telling me about the friends he was making and how one was working on a doctoral thesis surrounding mysticism and fortune tellers. Apparently, her work explains, there is a direct correlation between the economic recession and folks deciding to visit psychics instead of therapists. We continued to walk, joking curiously about this practice and its authenticity.

From the darkness behind us a voiced called out, “Do you think it’s real?” We turned to find a woman by the corner who must have slipped our vision, her slight build listing against the support of her bicycle. She looked worried and determined but somehow temporary, as if the whirlwind of her life had just deposited her on that street corner for the moment we were crossing it. Her question had stopped us dead in our tracks.

“Fortune telling. Psychics. Is it all real?” she repeated. Her tone was earnest and emotional as if our response could change her world. We shrugged nervously, smiled and said we weren’t sure. She began to tell us her narrative of misfortune and I was transfixed. Months ago she had seen a psychic who told her that she was going to miscarry. She did. She was angry. She hadn’t believed the psychic but was now in the throes of violent uncertainty. Because her first pregnancy had ended the same way she wondered if the psychic had reached out to her friends to gather background information, but they all had denied involvement. We were speechless at this unexpected interaction and for a third time, desperately waiting for us to answer, she pleaded, “I’m asking you, is it real?”

On that street corner in Chicago the lenses of the universe aligned our lives with this woman’s. But to what end? We had nothing to offer her but empty words of solace. So we exchanged well-wishes and parted ways, leaving us in silence for the next few blocks. I felt hollow. For all of my Public Service training and friendly nature, I couldn’t summon an ounce of legitimate assistance for this person. I knew her only by her troubles. But that’s the thing; so had the fortune teller.

Regardless of the legitimacy of the practice, fortune telling doesn’t provide a service to people that sees them as a whole person (like traditional therapy). It sees them only by their fortunes and misfortunes, buy their successes and failures. It doesn’t help people focus on their assets and build themselves up by their strengths. A psychic doesn’t form a relationship with their customer in the same way that a therapist forms a relationship with their patient.

But deeper questions that arise from this interaction are, “What is useful information for us?” and, “What are the questions we seek answers to?” I suppose I can’t know that fortune telling isn’t real, but it made me think about all of the times in my life that I’ve put my trust in people to tell me what the future will bring. At one time or another we have all trusted experts to advise our biggest decisions.

Brittany Maynard, a woman with a terminal, incurable form of cancer ended her life yesterday. She had become a controversial figure under the national spotlight as someone seeking care under Oregon’s the Death with Dignity Act. There is someone very close to me who is wondering how much time is left. While we’ve been told by doctors that there’s “no crystal ball” (their actual words) they have still given us estimates in the form of months. But those haven’t always been correct and I am blessed that they haven’t. Because they were wrong I’ve been given a little more time with him. It is curious to be a human in a world of pleasure and suffering trying to strike a balance between living and dying – to understand the sadness of leaving those we love in this world to find the joy of going home to a God who waits for us. If I had met Brittany I would have been as tongue-tied as I was when I met the woman in Chicago.

I’m not writing this to finally answer the question of that woman in Chicago, or to say if I thought Brittany was wrong to die the way she chose to. What I am saying is this: that night I got to walk away with someone I loved knowing that life is worth living for as long as I can live it well, and also that this extra time with my father has been a miracle. Our lives are filled with crippling uncertainty and crisis, but living them is possible when we know that love makes us eternal. Right now I invite you to reach out to someone you love, because doing so is the only way to find the answers to the right questions. God bless you.