Tuning the Student Mind

Call to Action

The Walk We Take Matters

An Excerpt from Tuning the Student Mind: A Journey in Consciousness-Centered Education by Molly Beauregard:

The Walk We Take Matters

On the day of President Obama’s first inauguration, I wanted to do something special. I had spent the year volunteering for his campaign and had a few invitations to revel in “our” success with my fellow suburban volunteers. I had noticed on the Obama campaign site that they were calling for inauguration day to be a day of service. The site listed local shelters, soup kitchens, and social service centers as places to bring donations or make financial donations. While I perused the site, I stumbled on one listing that piqued my interest: a Baptist church in Detroit hosting a celebratory community luncheon.

The day of the inauguration, I went to the best bakery in town and purchased a few dozen gorgeous frosted sugar cookies. At the last minute, I decided to pull my two girls out of school to accompany me. The whole drive downtown, they peppered me with questions and whined about missing gym class.

The luncheon was in the basement of an East Side Detroit church. When we entered, both girls got shy quickly. They were right: we didn’t know anyone there. We were also the only white people there—a new experience for my girls. For many white people, being the minority in a crowd is an unfamiliar (and sometimes unsettling) experience. This type of role reversal, especially for members of a privileged majority, offers the chance to grow our understanding of the role we occupy in the larger society, and what it might be like to be haphazardly cast in a different role that does not come with the same privilege. Stepping into an unfamiliar role on an unfamiliar set can also be fraught—will we be seen as frauds, booed off the stage?—but it can provide the opportunity to act authentically, because we must act without a script. And when our words and actions come from a place of authenticity, real connection with others becomes possible.

An older man in a sport coat greeted us at the door: “May I help you?”

I specifically remember feeling so shy and almost embarrassed by my potential intrusiveness. I handed him the cookies and said, “We’re just so happy about President Obama’s victory. We wanted to share the day with others we guessed might feel the same.”

At that, he silently pulled me into a huge bear hug and invited us to stay for the celebration.

The church was decorated with balloons and streamers, and a large, big-screen TV hung precariously from a beam. There was a lovely buffet set up, where my cookies were a welcome but unneeded surprise. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room as Obama was sworn in to office. We wept in our shared relief, our joy, and our inspired hopefulness for a brighter future. One older woman I talked to during lunch cried while she told me about the first time she was able to vote.

That day offered me a great gift. I recognized with some immediacy that I could not grasp the depth of feeling that Obama’s victory elicited in the Black community. That doesn’t mean that

my own joy was insincere or meaningless, just that the full narrative of how we arrived at that day differed. The varying journeys we took to get to that church basement matter. There are a lot of ways we can put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, but there are some roles we’ll never know what it’s like to play. Being aware of that fact is important, too.

Growing awareness helps us to move from separation to one reality. As long as you follow a script, unquestionably play a role, or maintain inflexible ideas about the individuals you meet, you will continually get what you expect. Or worse yet, what you have been told to expect. You will remain limited in your understanding of the nature of the world. Becoming aware of the roles we play and why we play them is the first step to growing the awareness that is needed to actualize our best selves.