Today a fellowship application asked me to write about a quirky memory that would teach them something about me. The prompt reminded me of this funny story about the World Trade Center. It seemed worthy of a share...
In 1995, I lived and worked at Green Chimneys Farm. At the time, the farm served as a residential treatment center for New York City's most abused kids. The animals had also been abused or wounded; they recovered together. The farm would schedule the release of a hawk or other recovered bird with the release day of a child. We would line up in the field and the child would release the bird and then hop in a car and head back towards New York City. Haunting!
During their treatment, we often brought the kids and some of the animals back into the city in our program "Farm on the Move!" This enabled our kids to teach others what they had learned and bring city folks in contact with animals. One day, we brought the farm to the plaza of the World Trade Center. Shirley, our beautiful scotch highland cow was getting a bit big for her mobile pen.
Shirley also had a spirit for adventure.
When I turned to check on the Chilly and Willy (the potbellied pigs), Shirley made a run for it. She bound through the plaza right during lunch hour. People could not believe their eyes. We ran after her, worried for her safety. All of a sudden, a man threw his briefcase to the side and wrangled Shirley to the ground. In his beautiful suit, with her under his arm, he brought her over and said, "I'm from Iowa and grew up on a cattle farm. Here's your cow."
This is the story I most like to remember about the World Trade Center.
Usually, I find myself grinding through job applications, dutifully listing my qualifications as accurately and passionately as possible. This morning, however, I had a different experience.
While editing my teaching statement for academic jobs, I noticed tears welling up in my eyes. In writing about my teaching approach, I began to reflect on all those who have taught me, all the great literature, and wisdom to which I have been exposed.
I do not know what I did to be born into a time, place, and family able to offer me time to read the classics and spend hundreds of hours with brilliant and compassionate minds. I had forgotten in my search for "what's next?" what an absolute privilege this has been.
I am preparing my syllabi now for several courses. A course at the University of Malta, SciencesPo (France), and one at Grinnell College. (Yes, I know three countries, lots of time on the road). In preparing to educate others, I can finally look back on who built me.
In some ways, I am a composite of all these people and institutions. True, I have my own opinions and my own philosophy about life which may differ from theirs at times, but I still stand on their shoulders. It seems important not to forget this. When writing job applications we have to shine the light on ourselves, when really in order to do so, I need to shine a light on the hundreds of people who made me, me.
If I win a position, "we" have really won it. Of course, there are limits. I'm probably not going to share my salary with them. But I do love them dearly.
Sarah Federman, PhD
Enjoy these short blogs and videos designed to bring you a little cheer.
My other blog Language of Conflict addresses the importance of word choice and narration in conflict.
Finish and Flourish supports writers struggling to complete projects.