Few people command as much of my respect as my grandfather. When I think about how little I really need to study Chinese, I remember my grandfather picking up Spanish as a sextegenarian for those occasional uses he creates. Few in my generation can say they first understood email because of their grandfather or wish they were as productive as he. No one has more completely and compellingly shattered the truck-driver stereotype. It was a deep honor when family friends compared my voice to his. People noting my willingness to learn how to do something I’m interested in are merely observing the flickering shadow cast by my grandfather.
I could go on. Suffice it to say he has always been far along a path I would be honored to follow.
My first call to arms in the war against social injustice sounded in my grandfather’s voice. He was a gentle warrior. Family visits usually included the passing of a little stack of tri-folded copy paper covered with updates on the fight to protect the innocent. My grandfather had spent countless hours collecting, networking, assembling, two-finger typing, verifying, crying over and distributing the information in those newsletters. I was proud to visit churches or friends and see my grandfather’s heart on their lobby table or countertop.
I’ve heard him berate politicians and watched him organize protests and rallies. I’ve joined him on overnight journeys to distant demonstrations. I’ve seen the tears well up in his eyes when he holds a baby that was supposed to be aborted. I’ve heard his voice choked with tears as he considers the extremity of the grace he’s experienced. I’ve watched his heart break for others who haven’t felt that grace.
I don’t really know what my activism will look like, but I know it will happen. This is a change I’ve seen coming and even claimed for a while, but has not yet transpired. When my students ask me why I’m here, my answer is the same as when I got here: Because I want to help people. It’s just more true now. When they ask why I would leave a more developed country to come here, I can honestly say ‘Because people are more important to me.’ I always knew there were problems around me, but I’ve not really seen my role in addressing them.
May that change me enough to become like my grandpa.