By: Alejandro Ulloa – LM Teacher of AP World History, AP Psychology, Global Studies, Recent World History & Co-Leader of LM’s Diversity Club
When my family and I moved to Pennsylvania from Honduras in 1992, I began kindergarten only speaking Spanish. Thankfully, many of the teachers and children in my new community were very kind and accepting of me. Unfortunately, there were also a number of occasions where some of my peers saw me as an easy target and chose to put me down for being different. During these moments, I couldn’t understand the words being said, but I could clearly tell that I was being mocked.
On one of these occasions, a hero stepped up for me. A kindergarten-aged hero.
A group of young kids were pointing and talking to me in a degrading way on the school bus. Suddenly, one of my classmates got up and stood directly in front of me, facing the mockers, almost as if he was shielding me from them. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but through his body language and tone, I knew he was telling them to stop.
Because this young boy was willing to act, he made me feel safer and more loved that day, and probably in the long-term as well. I have never forgotten the Christ-like action of this responder.
Action is necessary, and I believe that dialogue must be its partner. I have the privilege of being able to interact with high school students every day at LM who come to my classroom with great passion and conviction. They also come with deep, important questions. They are comfortable in a space of searching for clarity, but also willing to speak their mind and take a stance. They ask questions and bounce their perspectives off of others, including those they disagree with.
Throughout its history, members of the Mennonite faith have sought to work through questions in community while also taking action. In the midst of World War I and its aftermath, organizations such as Eastern Mennonite Missions and Mennonite Central Committee were founded to spread the gospel and to actively engage with the needs of those around the world. This required wrestling with complicated questions about how to engage a war-torn world from a peace perspective. LM continues in this tradition of action and dialogue.
2020 has been a year that has given us more questions than answers. With a mysterious global pandemic and the eye-opening tragedy of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, we are left wrestling with difficult questions that do not have obvious answers; questions about police authority and accountability, racial prejudice, systemic racism, public health, and economic adaptation. We need the shared wisdom that comes from dialogue and hearing each other’s stories, ideas and expertise. If we are more often able to stand in a posture of listening and learning, we will accomplish a lot together. As we dialogue and collaborate with humility and passion, let us continue to be brave enough to respond to the needs of those around us as we are led by the teachings of Jesus Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.