We went to commencement. We didn’t expect a speaker. When we looked at the program, we discovered that there was a speaker. E.J. Dionne.
I hear him on NPR. I hear him on TV news programs. Although we aren’t always in the same place, I always appreciate his thoughtfulness and balance.
His address was great. For the first graduating class of the new School of Communication at Loyola University, his balance of religion and journalism and communication was perfect.
(In fact, it was the high point in a ceremony where the high point should have been the conferring of a degree on Alica (uh li sha) Christine Markland. The name called was Alicia (uh lee see a) Charlene. We were so confused, we didn’t clap. And Allie was our real reason for going to commencement. Allie and Andrew have been dating for more than four years.)
After the ceremony, Allie’s family and our family went to the reception. We talked and mingled and celebrated. After a bit, I looked up and realized that E.J. Dionne was in the room, having dessert and talking with graduates.
I thought about talking to him, asking for his autograph. And then I thought, “that is so uncool. Besides, why would he talk to you.”
And then I remembered my new friend Glenda. A week ago, Glenda and I were at the same conference in Chicago. The day before the conference, Glenda went to visit Oprah’s studios, just to see where they are. For Glenda that meant steering her scooter two miles on Chicago sidewalks in the rain.
All I had to do was turn and look in his face and say “hello.”
I turned and asked. We chatted. I have his autograph on a page of my little moleskin next to my notes on his address.
How is this about community?
Community is when you hear the voice of a friend, even a new friend, telling you to climb down off your silly false pride and say “hi.” (Though she would never say it that way. She would be far more gracious).
Thank you Glenda.
And thank you Robert for the invitation to write about what I learned from community.
Photo courtesy Chris Cree