September 23, 2014

MISSION MATTERS: Overcoming Inaction and Indifference

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Originally, I planned to write a reflection about Ferguson, Missouri. I grew up in Florissant, my nieces and nephews attend school in the Ferguson-Florissant School District, and I was shocked, scared, angry, and saddened by the events that unfolded following the death of Michael Brown.

I came to realize that I was experiencing conflicting feelings. I wanted to be part of what was going on in Ferguson. I wanted to support them, but I didn't want to drive down West Florissant. I was outraged and wanted to stand in solidarity with other African-Americans, but after hearing the news reports of shootings, rioting, tear gas and disgusting brutality, I was too afraid to go. Would my black face be the next one on the news because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Fear had taken control and the result was my inaction. Instead of looking for opportunities to support my neighboring community, I drove downtown and entered my SLU bubble. I was having a great time meeting new students, attending Fall Welcome Events and working on new initiatives for Mission and Ministry. I was walking across campus one evening and noticed how joyful I felt. For some reason the hustle and bustle, the laughter and conversations, even the occasional siren and loud music coming out of a car on Grand, all served to energize my spirit. The experience here is magical, but many will never know.

There are too many young people, like Michael Brown, who will never have a college experience. The challenge of improving access to education and equity for underserved populations rages on. Children right here in our neighborhood, just north on Grand, need our help with homework and improving reading skills so they can successfully complete high school and have a greater chance of attending college.

Reflection proved to be the catalyst for change, and just so you know, it's not always pretty. Why hadn't I done anything? I felt guilty for my inaction regarding Ferguson and my indifference regarding North St. Louis. It seemed everyone was doing something! How am I called to serve? How do I understand our Mission? How am I living the magis?

I turned to my Maxwell Leadership Bible and I prayed. Soon after, I was blessed with an invitation to a community meeting where the focus was about better partnerships, resources and services for communities throughout St. Louis, including North St. Louis.

I could see the Spirit working through this group and me, but my fear and resulting inaction served as a cloak. Now, as I work with amazing children in communities across the metro, I know God is present. I'm still working on integrating this into my daily life; it's easy to get caught up in that hustle and bustle I mentioned. However, if you make time for reflection, you may find your path moving from inaction and indifference, to living the magis.

— R. Kendall Jones Graduate Student in the College of Education and Public Service
and Graduate Assistant for Mission and Ministry

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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