Thursday, April 02, 2015

Growth is a Miracle

The two professors who made Duke for me were I. B. ("Bill") Holley of the History Department and Barney Jones in the Religion Department.  Other fine teachers also made college a rich and valuable experience, both those two had, I think, the greatest impact on me.  Dr. Holley now and then expressed his amazement about being where he was in life, that is, as a school teacher.

He said he never expected to live such a comfortable life.  He taught students because that was what he liked to do.  But then, all of a sudden it seemed to him, here he was a tenured professor at Duke, teaching bright kids, living in a beautiful place, being paid far more than he would have ever expected.  All of this by simply doing what he liked to do.  (He did what he liked to do very well, but didn't say so.)

He likened it to what a farmer does.  He goes out, tills his fields, plants, fertilizes ("husbands") what he comes to be in charge of, does something every day, and he works hard and as smart as he can.  Yet he is amazed that the miracle happens, the crops begin to grow as the seed germinates, the rains come and the sunshine and soil do their work.  The crops grow to fruition and upon their harvest the market buys those crops, because other people need them.  They pay the farmer money, from which he can support his family, buy seed and supplies for the next growing season, and perhaps an additional field.  The farmer compares to what has  happened to what he did and then stands amazed.  How could Bill Holley do what he liked to do and then, after a time, find himself in that classroom, expressing his wonder to a class of college seniors and being so well off?  He was humbled by the whole thing.

There was an argument in Washington between the Democrats and the Republicans recently about who is responsible for the prosperity that many Americans enjoy.  (I would say "most" Americans, not just many, if we are going to speak relatively, that is, most Americans when compared to others in other places and at other times.)  The Democrats said to the Republicans, the self-appointed representatives of American individualism, that the national community is responsible for that prosperity.  (What they meant by that is mainly Washington is responsible, that is Washington when it is fortunate enough to be in control of the Democrats.)  With umbrage, Republicans said, "No, I built this," hoping to strike a chord in the heart of every hard-working American.  It was a false argument, one that played into the strategy of polarization that each party employs against the other, much to the detriment of the country.

The miracle of growth takes table-setting, to change the metaphor, by community and individuals both, of course.  But, even then, when the feast comes in from the kitchen, it is God who prepares it and brings it to us for the celebration, all in at his good time.

I'm on the back end of the curve of my career as a lawyer, and it amazes me that writing wills has brought me here, to this place and to this point, with such family, partners, and other friends.  Yes, I have gotten up every day and gone  to school or work, with times off each week for rest.  But as I look at this, I know that my efforts were hardly enough to get me to this place.  It took a lot of people to get me here, one of them Bill Holley, each one of them individually and in community helping to set my table.  But like Dr. Holley, I'm amazed and grateful at this miracle of growth.

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