From the Parent Council


DO I KNOW YOU?

You may have heard by now that the theme for George Fox this school year is “Be Known.”  You can see it on the website and President Robin Baker wrote about it in the September Parent Perspectives. Recently, Mark Pothoff, dean of community life, said that this new theme is well received by the students. In the past, the theme would be repeated a few times at the beginning of the year but was soon forgotten. This theme seems to have struck a chord. People want to be known.

Never has there been a time where more could be known about people but people are less known than ever. In an age of Internet social networking, text messages and cell phones, people have immediate and round-the-clock access to others. A simple Google search can reveal the most intimate, amazing and often embarrassing details of someone’s life. But who really knows the heart of that individual?

The problem can be summed up by a conversation overheard at Family Weekend. A mother was asking her freshman son if he had made any new friends while at George Fox. The young man replied (as he was texting), “I’ve been too busy getting ‘friended’ to make friends.”

We all long to be known deeply and accepted fully. While we want to be known, fear keeps us from revealing very much. Painful memories remind us that being known is risky and often brings mocking or embarrassment. We are convinced that if we are really known we will be rejected. So we hide behind walls that protect us. As long as we remain behind our walls, we are “safe” but we are also isolated, lonely and often bored. A call to be known is a risky call to the kind of adventure and excitement that stirs our heart. It wakens a great longing in us. But for many (most?) our fear is greater and we remain hidden and unknown.

It makes me wonder how well I know my children and if I am really known to them. If anyone should know them, I should. I was there when each was born and for a lot of significant events since then. But while I know their life story and could tell you stories that each one wishes no one would hear, how well do I know their hearts? For that matter, how well do they know my heart? How might knowing my heart better encourage my daughter, who is a junior at George Fox this year?

My father is a brilliant man, and though retired now was well respected in the narrow niche of the aerospace industry in which he worked as a mechanical engineer. I always assumed that his education came easy to him and he excelled in all his classes. But a few years ago he told me about a surveying class he took as a freshman in college. He was younger than most of the guys in the class because he had graduated from high school early and most of them were GIs back from WWII. My Dad told me how he struggled with estimating distances and figuring out maps when his older classmates had been doing that sort of thing on the battlefield in life-threatening situations. For them to sit in a classroom and do it was a breeze. My Dad was very intimidated by those guys and wondered if he could make it.

When my Dad told me that story, I saw a part of him I had never known before. He let me in on some of his own battle and it was inviting. Sadly, when I heard that story I had been out of college for years. I think it would have made a huge difference if he had told me that story about halfway through my freshman year of college. Some of the pressure and loneliness that I felt might not have been so great if I had known my Dad faced similar challenges, if I had just known him better.

Soon our sons and daughters will be coming home for Thanksgiving and not long after that for the longer Christmas break. When they are back at your house, how might you invest the time to know them better? How can you make yourself known to them in a way that will encourage them in their journey? They will be different when they come back, a little more independent and perhaps a little less interested in their “fuddy duddy” parents. You’re going to have to see them as the young adults that they have become. But that is also an opportunity to know them in a different and perhaps deeper way. How can you show loving curiosity without being a parental nag? Maybe there will be an opportunity to share some stories – stories that reveal a little more of your heart and open the door to be known while knowing them a little better.

Winslow Thurston
Parent Council Chair-elect