Loving People

Faith SandlerCentennial, Community, Democracy, Impact, Leadership, Words of Faith

Quote from Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire, from a grave marker at Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri

I’m calling our attention to love.

In the midst of partisan rancor, governance without civility, and professionalizing ourselves away from seeing another person’s pain, so many of us are physically and emotionally isolated. A recent email passed along to me from a friend of the Foundation is a love letter I am proud to publish (emphasis added):

A friend was widowed young, in her forties, when her husband was killed in an automobile crash. He had returned to school to earn his architectural degree and was close to completing the repayment of his grad school loans, but he still owed Scholarship Foundation $1,000, so my friend wrote and asked if she were liable for this sum. She had five children, three still at home and knew money would be tight but was prepared to make at least token payments. She got a warm, comforting letter from the director who expressed her sympathy and said that of course she’s not liable, that they would never expect it in these circumstances. I saw her this week and she said she still has that letter, thirty years later. This came up because we were talking about the Scholarship Foundation and all the good it does. I know you won’t be surprised, but you might want to share with the workers how much impact they make on the people who love the people they help.

Loving the people we help and the people with whom we work is right now a process remote but not at all rote. The Scholarship Foundation as a community shows up for students and families who are struggling with the death of a loved one, for staff members who are trying to pretend as though COVID doesn’t scare them, for board members who have had major surgery or recently lost their jobs, and for so many more moments of celebration and consolation. I love my work and that’s ALL about the people.

Though I am certain I wrote the note to that widow thirty years ago, I did so having been trained by a community born in 1920 and sustained by people who know how to love. From the moment I was named Faith, my family started teaching me that we stick together and support each other always. And, like many of you, I have learned that family, like sexuality, gender and love, is much more than biology.

Love is forgiving a debt even when profit-motive might argue otherwise. Love is working with a student whose grade point average has fallen dangerously low, preserving their funding and their dignity. Love is offering a ride, delivering a meal, or just being present in the waiting room at the hospital. Love is closing the office, staying more than six-feet distant, and masking for the safety of others. Love is moving together to be free to be who we truly are. Love is a state of being.

Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word “love” here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace – not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

– Faith Sandler