Wednesday, February 18, 2009

An era passing: I shed some tears this morning . . .

I get on the Sonlighters Club forums only very occasionally anymore. ("Back in the day" I used to spend hours there every day.)

This morning I went to one of my favorite Sonlighters Club forums (Lifelong Learners) and read the "farewell address" of one of the Sonlight moderators, one of the forums' very early participants, a woman whose services I urged Sonlight to acquire as a moderator specifically because I had seen how thoughtful and well-spoken she was.

Tracy has served as a moderator so long, I don't even recall when she began her duties. Probably about eight years ago, I would guess.

Well . . . her time of service seems to have come to an end as of this last weekend. And I happened to stumble upon her summary, goodbye post as a moderator.

I thought her insights were well worth repeating here. Through her moderating work, she helped to establish as practice (not always followed, but ever-more-intentionally pursued) what I expressed as a principle of communication I seek to follow in my own life and attempted to integrate into the Sonlight Curriculum. Specifically: "Seek first to understand, and then to be understood."

Sadly, I'm afraid, for too many of us--especially in the Christian community--the emphasis is entirely the other way 'round. (Indeed, I'm afraid, too often the matter of understanding is neglected completely in our headlong rush to make sure we "preach the 'Good News'"!)

Anyway. The following is an excerpt from Tracy's "Farewell Address" that made me cry:
On this, my last day as a Sonlight moderator, I’d just like to say, “Thank-you!” to each and every last one of you that has ever posted on the Sonlight forums, to those of you who lurked, to those of you I’ve spoken to on the phone, and with whom I have had email conversations. You’ve changed me in deep and lasting ways, and I am grateful to you.

You’ve made me lose sleep, miss meals, say bad words, and yes . . . scream in frustration. You’ve also inspired me, challenged me, taught me, shaped me, pushed me, stretched me, encouraged me, prayed for me, and been my friends . . . even when you didn’t know it was me that you were encouraging. Thank you for good times and bad.

I’ve had to learn to articulate just what it is that tends to make communication spiral out of control. Even though on good days, many of you have inspired me by your ability to look past your differences and reach out in genuine acts of loving charity toward someone with whom you completely disagree. I’ve had to learn to pinpoint, define, and express what pushes people to lash out. And in the end, you’ve changed me. Perhaps, not so much my opinions with regard to politics and religion and parenting and Harry Potter, and breast-feeding (or not), but in my ability to look for and express common ground where it can be found and to have a real affection for those with whom I disagree on substantive issues . . . like eggplant. To that end, you’ve helped me be a better co-worker and parent. To learn to articulate a principle is to become a better teacher of it both to oneself and to others.

I like to think I am a better person today, than when I started this job. You’ve challenged me and stretched me.

On the bad days, I’ve had to sit down and define just what made a post charitable or uncharitable completely independent of whether or not I agreed with the opinion expressed therein. That was hard and it taught me a lot. Many, many of you have taught me through your fine examples how to have a controversial opinion and express it with charity. If I have ever managed to express in words, how to communicate charitably; then, it is because I have seen so many fine examples of how to do it during my time as a Sonlight moderator. Through that exercise, I’ve learned to be more charitable in the way I express myself (I hope) in all aspects of my life and shockingly (to me) in many ways, I am more charitable than when I started work as a moderator and not just in the ways I express myself. By that I mean, I don’t just say things charitably but I AM more charitable. I am grateful to you all beyond words for that gift to me. . . .

From the bottom of my heart that you’ve all had a hand in enlarging . . . Thank you.
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