Memories of Awe Episode 3

When Liz entered Professor McKown’s office, she seemed more exhausted than usual. He couldn’t even fathom what the upper limit was on her excitement.

LJBefore I begin, I want to ask you a question about something you said at the end of our last meeting. You commented that these interviews evoked memories of awe for you. Would you be ok if that became the title of my oral history project?           

KMcK:  I’d love that. I hope it helps describe how important awe can be in one’s life.

LJGreat. Let’s start. I can’t wait to hear your next memory.

KMcK:  As you probably know, I teach all the freshmen in our college. In the first class, I invite students to see me if they have any problems. Well, one of the students showed up in my office the next day.

She came from a family that didn’t believe that women should go to college. In their culture, a college woman was unacceptable for marriage to a man from their culture. They threatened her and told her if she went to college she was no longer part of their family.

LJThat’s terrible. I guess she didn’t know how she could    continue?

KMcK:  That’s right. She had enough money for the first semester but not after that.

LJWell what did you tell her?

KMcK:  Before I answer your question, let me tell you something I’ve learned over the years. If you maintain alertness in everything you do, hear, and see, you will find ways to connect things. Almost every great innovation came about from connections.

In Athena’s case, I recalled a conversation I had with a very successful former student. He and his wife were the pillars of our community. The trouble was that they frequently had to attend social functions at night and their two young children needed someone to look after them.

LJSo Athena became a babysitter?

KMcK:  That and much more. She helped them with their homework.  She did creative projects with them. She taught them how to make up their own stories. She got them to bed.

LJThat’s wonderful. But as expensive as college is, I can’t imagine she earned enough money for another semester.

KMcK:  As my former student and his wife got to know Athena, she shared with them her story. Needless to say, they were   appalled.

They invited Athena to live with them. That took care of her housing and meals, but she still didn’t have money for tuition. They continued to pay Athena, but that wouldn’t be enough.

LJWhat did she do?

KMcK:  The University has a fund to support students who need financial support. We were able to get Athena the money she needed.

LJWhat a wonderful memory. I’m beginning to see what you said about awe. I’m in awe of Athena’s courage. I’m also in awe of the kindness of your former student and his wife. Could we spend our next interview just talking about awe? I have a lot of questions that I would like to explore.

KMcK:  I’d value that, but before you go let me show you this. It’s a picture of Athena and her new family at their first Thanksgiving get-together. How can you possibly compare that picture with a paper in a journal that hardly anyone has ever read? Unfortunately, we don’t count pictures like this like we do papers. Awe sustains our lives, but it is rarely used as a measure of our worth.

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“The fragrance always stays in the hand that gives the rose.”– Hada Bejar (actress)

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