By Jurell Sison
In class last week my students worked on a school wide assignment called Project Hope. It’s a nation-wide contest that’s open to all the Holy Cross high schools in the country and our students submit projects every year (I linked some of my favorite student work at the end of the blog). Anyways, the theme this year focuses on the Year of Mercy and I’m excited to see what my students will turn in tomorrow.
During one of our in-class work days, I was brainstorming with one of my students about his project and he had decided to make an old fashion collage (finally, a teenager would understand what it really meant to “cut and paste”). His original idea was to make a collage that represented the times he desperately needed God’s mercy. As we were talking through his ideas, he didn’t know how exactly he would depict it but he assured me that he would “figure something out.” So I trusted him and let him be for awhile.
Twenty minutes later I came back to check on him:
“So, how’s the collage doing?”
“Good. I’m just drawing out some of my ideas right now but it’s going really well. I actually came up with an even better idea.”
“Oh yeah? What’s that?”
“Instead of focusing on my story, I wanted to focus on all the different sins that we can all commit… you know like bullying, gossip, cheating, lying … and all that stuff. So I decided to draw the word mercy in the middle of the page and then make a collage of all these other sins.”
I looked up at the ceiling. I was thinking pretty hard ...and then said, “Okay... but... where do you fit in on this?”
It was in that moment that I remembered our human tendency to point the finger. This isn’t a new psychological discovery. In fact, we read about it in the Gospel today with the woman caught in adultery. A crowd is ready to condemn her with stones but Jesus says “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And one by one each of these people dropped their stones and left.
What’s interesting about the story with my student is his desire to switch his project idea. He started with wanting talk about the moments when he needed mercy, the times he wished he could push the restart button but twenty minutes later he decided to focus on someone else’s sins. When I give these personal assignments, I always wonder if my students get scared to go that deep. After all, your heart is scary place to plunge, especially if you’ve never been there before. While it’s difficult to go beyond the surface and frightening to examine that ways that we have fallen short--this act is the first step towards experiencing God’s mercy.
The Gospel reminds us all of how easy it is to point the finger, how easy it is to focus on someone else rather than myself. Needless to say, I took those final moments of class encouraging my student to look deep inside himself so he could tell his own personal story. I told him that reflecting on his own story would not only be profound and inspiring but it would be courageous.
So today may we not point the finger, may we not blame. On the contrary, may we be courageous.
CHECK OUT SOME OF MY FAVORITE PROJECTS FROM MY STUDENTS:
SETH B, BREON R, JOELLE K, ANTONIO H: "When you Wake Up?"
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jurell is a twenty-something Filipino American living in Cleveland, Ohio. He is a teacher, writer, and filmmaker on the quest for the living God. His mission is to share stories and experiences with those who are chasing meaning and purpose in life. Jurell graduated in May 2013 with a Master of Arts in Theology. Along with some other great friends, he is one of the co-founders of The Living Person. Follow him at jurellsison.com or @jurellsison on twitter.