You have to love what you know
Center for Social Concerns
"If you want to know something, you have to love it" — one of the first things uttered from Professor Andrew Weigert as I sat and decided whether or not I wanted to bother with trying to get into this "environment related Sociology course." As our learning community discussed this idea, it really began to resonate with my experience here at Notre Dame and in my journey through life. "To know" and "to love," what incredible concepts with the ability to empower not only individuals but also communities. "Could you know something and not love it, or perhaps love something without knowing it?" As these words echoed from Professor Weigert, I came to realize they cannot. Knowing and loving is a reciprocal process that challenges us every day in our journey for truth, justice and a sense of being present in the world. None of my experiences have proved this to me more than my service learning experiences through the Center for Social Concerns. Let me share.
During my freshmen year, I was immersed in the migrant worker community of Immokalee, Fla., through the Migrant Experiences Seminar, where I came to know and love a part of my family history and current reality of farm-workers in America. It was a journey where the knowledge you obtain makes you aware of the injustices and stress experienced by a migrant worker. Through this experience the love that grew was one not only for a community but the responsibility to take into consideration their hardship and question our actions as consumers, voters and Christians in the world. The process of knowledge and love is not exactly warm and fuzzy. That is the awe of this process, because your emotions and mind are called to come to a recognition of your position and effect in regards to other communities. The love is the compassion I discovered and the knowledge is the reality of migrant farmworker enduring life ethic and challenges.
This theme continues in my many journeys of service learning. The leadership and community organizing issues in the barrio of San Diego are nurtured by the process of knowing and loving. Communities need to work side by side, collectively and patiently, to defend and promote their communities that they love by sharing and taking in knowledge of the diverse and often discouraging barriers to be found in local government. By doing this, you begin the stage of building a community that fosters dialogue, cooperation and a commitment to endure in one another's struggles. The best example of this was when the council representative from the Barrio Logan district moved into the community to learn and explore ways to assist in reconstruction and progress.
My encounter with the third world through the means of providing a technical and educational service to Haitians presented this concept in a completely different way. Our work in Haiti shoved the reality of the wide gap of the conditions of our two countries and emphasized that service is not just a "handing out." Our efforts to provide safe and reliable water sources was part of a realization that the aid they have been given in the past has been a disservice. It was a case of caring and love without the knowledge and sensitivity to the Haitian social and cultural reality. That week, both the community from Notre Dame and the Haitians endured in a process of knowing and loving; in many instances, we met failure. However, it was a step in a relationship that can be nurtured between the "educated" students from Notre Dame and the country of Haiti in years to come.
Funded through a Kellogg Institute research grant, my recent work with small Christian communities (SCCs) in Bolivia really draws on the essence of these concepts of knowledge and love. It is best shown in the way Henri Nouwen illustrates gospel Luke 24, the road to Emmaus: the process of walking, listening, communicating and finally communion with individuals and events you encounter in life. SCCs live this everyday with one another and recognize it is a cyclical process that spills knowledge and love not only of the scripture but also of their vocations to serve God in their everyday lives.
Knowing and loving is a gift the Notre Dame community offers us in our four years here. There is a never-ceasing process to this process and it applies to everyone one of us in any path we choose to take after we leave this community. It is a call to community activists, bankers, academics, business professionals, clergy, lawyers, doctors, scientists ... the list goes on and on. I have been blessed to practice this concept through my many experiences and witness it through individuals at the CSC; faculty such as Dr. Silliman and Father Pelton and the names do not cease. Each has a passion for his work that unfolds knowledge and love. Professor Weigert introduced a consciousness that awareness enlightens our lives and helps us on our journey of embracing the agapic nature of our world and society.
And, by the way, I am taking Professor Weigert's course, and undergoing the next process of discovering the reciprocal process of "to know" and "to love."
For a More Just and Humane World is a bi-weekly column sponsored by the Center for Social Concerns. Comments and discussions are welcome at ND.firstname.lastname@example.org. Angela Anderson is a senior Government major with a Theology minor in the Public Service Concentration. She is past chairperson of the Experiential Learning Council and was the winner of the Indiana Campus Compact's Richard J. Wood Award for commitment to public service and leadership.
All Viewpoint Stories for Thursday, September 16, 1999