Jan 8 — “You Belong Here”

Friday January 8 — “I fell from the ice castle of myself”

When a planned program draws c. 50 faculty, staff and administrators during the January UDM Colleagues Day, and no one wants to leave after the hour allotted, so that 1 hour opens out to 1 hour and 40 minutes, a mutual conversation happened that worked.  I had to leave at 1 hour/20 minutes and grieved missing the beautiful human energy alive in the room.  The university’s Undergraduate Retention Committee (Chair: Mary-Catherine Harrison; Moderator: Kathleen Walker) designed the time and built free ranging conversation with a pre-survey that invited short responses to these questions: “When have I felt welcome at UDM?” or “When have I felt unwelcome at UDM?”   The committee sorted the responses and read them one by one to the room full of people.  The effect was remarkable:  scripted voices read survey responses clustered by topic.  The rest of us listened.

When all the survey responses had been performed by one or another of the 9 presenters, the facilitator opened the rest of the time to all of us as a single group.   Compelling eloquence over and over:  direct, candid celebrations and lamentations spoken in close-to-the-ground language.  I doubt any of us missed our collective message — that every person’s welcome anoints someone else’s soul and every person’s micro aggression, thoughtless or malicious, leaves wounds.  I was not alone in leaving chastened and encouraged.   We felt, perhaps, like we were teaching one another what makes the world go round, what restores courage and creativity, what surprises us either with the power of welcome or of venom, what wounds us or nourishes us.

No wonder the session went long.

Today’s poet Richard Wehrman writes of falling out of a tightly contained place into   .  .  .    into birth.   But not only the miraculous vulnerability of our first birth; in the poem the birth process happens everywhere:  for every micro-aggression, perhaps, a micro-welcome waits for us.

Retention Committee, you nailed our conversation yesterday and opened all of us who came into a new place.   We are in your debt.

Have a great weekend,


john st sj

Today’s Post #    Richard Wehrman:   “When I Fell into the World”


When I fell into the world, it was
as into my mother’s arms, it was into
the holding of warmth, the blue-green water,
it was into the beings who blinked
back at me amazed, as I was by them.
I fell from separateness, I fell from constriction.
I fell from the ice castle of myself, through
the rushing darkness, past screams,
past fear.  I did not float up, I fell down,
and it was the world that waited
as I was stripped bare, as I tumbled out
of my self—faster and faster through blue
clouds and white, into the unknown arms
of joyfulness, toward the beings unnumbered
who opened their hearts in love.


“When I Fell into the World” by Richard Wehrman.

Art credit: Image by unknown photographer.
Posted by Phyllis Cole-Dai on Jan 10, 2015 12:00 am

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