Since my previous post five months ago, I’ve started work on a Ph.D. degree at the Missouri School of Journalism, submitted my first academic article for peer review, and engaged in quite a few panels, seminars, and symposia. I’ve become more conscious of my wardrobe and what is “expected” of a doctoral student. I perpetually keep a Google Scholar tab open in my browser and have become a more ardent grammar snob than I ever thought possible. I scan every string of text for flagrant apostrophes (it’s ’60s not 60’s) and improper subject-verb agreement (data are, rather than is, sexy).
Needless to say, I’m a changed man.
It’s easy to withdraw and view the external world and its inhabitants (or civilians, as one of my professors fondly terms them) as intellectual variables on an invisible chessboard, so I fight everyday to nurture my humanity and compassion.
A trip to my brother and sister-in-law’s home in Grinnell, Iowa, this past week, provided such an opportunity. Their two boys, aged four and 11 months, neither knew nor cared for my academic credentials or grammar prowess. Their impression of me rested on how I engaged them and if I would spend time building a five-story “National Guard Zoo” with my older nephew in his playroom.
The trip reminded me that people are more than informants in some groundbreaking research study or the demographic attributes they represent. They each have their own needs, priorities, and passions and should be understood respectfully and with humanity.
Maybe then our differences can unite, inspire, and spur innovation rather than divide us.