What do these Commitments mean to you, and how do they fit into your worldview?
I believe the Third and Fourth Great Commitments at Berea College speak directly about the attitudes that guide our relationships and our work, particularly with regard to inclusiveness, the value of all people and the dignity in ALL labor. The Third Great Commitment on Christian attitude doesn’t really have its power in the words we use, but it surely does in the actions that we display to other people. I think many times, as individuals, we recognize and describe strong values systems to be ‘Christian attitudes,’ especially when we see people adhering to a social, ethical or doctrinal value system that respects others and what they are called to do.
The Fourth Great Commitment relates directly to the dignity of all labor and, in reality, it guides every single one of the other commitments. I feel the Commitment on labor references the attitudes that each of us bring to our work; the respect that we exhibit for the work of others, and the fact that it takes all our work—together—to create a community that can function successfully. I believe these two commitments have always worked hand-in-hand at Berea College to foster a realization that each person has a great worth, and that each person gives great value to the work that we all do at Berea. Each person and the work they do is to be respected and each person should be treated honestly and fairly.
These attitudes have to show in what we do, in how we treat each other, and they have to show in the activities in which we involve ourselves. As a community that is based on Christian values, we understand that’s not going to happen one-hundred percent of the time. I’m going to fall short and you’re going to fall short. But the grand idea of living in a Christian or value-driven environment, one that invites change (actually it requires change), is in understanding the premise that ‘falling short’ is what we all do on a fairly regular basis. When we keep this premise in front of us, our inter-relationships with others are civil and respectful, and we are all brought to a point of understanding that we can “sit and discuss.”
What challenges do these Commitments pose?
When it’s difficult to get comfortable here at Berea, I think it is a challenge to grow. I’ve talked with students in my office about things they’ve heard at convo, things they’ve heard in class, and even about their roommates. We’ve talked about disagreements they’ve had, and they’ve even disagreed with me about work related issues. And, they’ve talked about how they felt when someone was not treating them with respect, or someone made, what they perceived to be a mean statement. I tell them at those times there is an opportunity for growth; but that type of growth or change is hard for people because change is an internal thing. It is complicated, and can be messy and dirty, especially when it seems to come upon us quickly and ruthlessly. I tell students that from the day they start here we’re preparing them to leave—we want them to go! In fact, we require it, force it, and say, “It’s time to graduate, go! Go do something with what you’ve learned and how you’ve learned to live your life.”