Imagine for a moment, if you will, being in a third world country working with an organization that uses education as a means to uplift a marginalized community. It is a Christian Organization and believes that all education begins with the Lord so they place you as a teacher of Theology for Men, Women and Youth. You have ample knowledge in Biblical Studies, Theology, Sociology, History, Philosophy, Cultural Anthropology and the like so when you are given the task of developing lesson plans on Biblical Leadership, Eschatology and Postmodernism you rejoice at the intellectual stimulation. You have a week to prepare for each 45 minute lecture and must be ready for questions and dialogue with the people you will be teaching. You must make it biblical and pragmatic.
Well...until you remember the educational discrepancy between you and your audience.
You graduated from one of the best high schools in the United States of America.
Proudly wear your two diplomas.
Proudly speak of your two years in College and many more to come.
Proudly synthesize ideas from your multiple honors programs and apply them to the task at hand.
Then you realize...none of that matters.
The reality is that there are things more important than where you come from, what you've accomplished and what you've been blessed with. What actually matters is what you do with all that. I'm not a doctor, I'm not an engineer but I've been blessed with an excellent education, am good at solving complex problems and have the ability to communicate these things with others. I'm good at helping people learn. The reality is, however, that down here teaching -something that normally has come easy to me- has become my biggest challenge because I've been struck by distorted statuses and perceptions as well as a completely new audience all of which has brought a strong sense of both humility and responsibility.
When I speak about distorted statuses I am making a reference to Bernard Lonergan. I quote him often because his philosophical analysis of the good of order and development of the self has truly changed how I perceive the world around me. In short, Lonergan argues that when there is a good of order there will always be an outcome of statuses. For example, when there is a good business there will be a buyer and seller, a boss and a worker, etc. However, there can be a distortion of status. Following the example, when a boss becomes oppressive and abuses his power the statuses unlawfully shift from boss and worker to dictator/totalitarian and slave. Due to the abuse of power and an unrealistic perception there is a wrong outcome in the good of order. Here in Guatemala the same distortion of status can be seen in the society between those who have education and those that don't. This is especially exacerbated in the churches where education quite literally creates a hierarchy in the church, one that can be easily abused. When I walk into a church and am introduced as a collegian educator from America people tend to automatically place me on a superior level. I am treated better, am always asked questions, have been asked a few times to give the lesson even though someone in the congregation was going to do it, people begin doubting their own abilities and look at me for confirmation, it is almost as if I become the sole arbiter of truth. It is very easy to let this get to your head. The only reason I haven't become arrogant is because this different treatment and distorted status has made me terribly uncomfortable and has forced me to realize the arrogance I hold, both implicitly and explicitly, due to my education and achievements. I have been forced to reexamine what these accomplishments implicate and have been confronted with the fact that I have been caught up in the never ending cycle of self-edifying progress which I so often criticize. Where I've been pushed the most, however, has been reflecting upon what it means to be an educator and what education is all about. All these questions and pressures have made me come to monumental yet simple conclusions. It doesn't matter how much study, experience or wealth an individual has, it matters how they use it. Our statuses become distorted when use them in a way other than they were meant. When a CEO becomes a greedy, selfish tyrant; when a politician becomes a power-hungry dictator; when a pastor sees himself as a demi-god; or when an educator forgets to be a student. What's fascinating about the distortion of statuses is that often, if not always, they happen when we forget the words of Christ who said that the first would be last and the last would be first. His model of servant leadership impresses a sense of humility on each individual that heads his call, restoring and transforming order back into something that is good through the reorientation of right statuses. When confronted with distorted perceptions, relationships and statuses we must seek to rectify them with a good of order established through servant leadership. Under this, education merely becomes a vehicle in which the inclusivity of the gospel is manifest by raising the status of all individuals through those who have more. Thus I continue to be a student though I'm teaching because education is a communal venture in which all individuals use what they have been blessed with to bless others. If it is theology, bless others with knowledge of God; if it is wonder, bless others with the ability to see again as a child; if it is humility, bless others with the ability to see that life can be enjoyed by giving not just by receiving. This concept of everyone being both educator and student rectifies distorted statuses and unifies individuals which would otherwise be divided by the social hierarchy we have created. So I have been forced to be responsible. I am acted upon by these constant pressures and its easy to distort my own status, demean the people who come to learn, place myself on a higher tier, become apathetic because of their "lowly position." But this would only perpetuate the problem of why these churches and groups haven't been reached by organizations and have instead been marginalized for years. Instead, I need to be responsible with the blessings I have of education and teach in such a way that I am edify these individuals but also being humble enough to learn from them. Thus I'm learning that responsibility is this: taking what you have and blessing others without distorting neither your nor their status. Or, in other words, responsibility is simply humility.