By Haley Atkinson
“The Whitworth community” is a phrase ingrained in our minds and hearts from the moment of our arrival on campus. Traditiation is devoted to generating dorm community, while Prime Times carry the community through the year.
RAs coordinate hall activities and open door policies to cultivate a strong hall community. The small group ministry is committed to providing communities of spiritual growth. Programs and events are created seeking to address specific needs of the community. First-year seminar courses are designed to foster major communities. Community Building Day facilitates positive interactions with the greater Spokane community. But beneath it all we have to ask is there a genuine community? I would argue yes.
Are we all running barefoot to the Back 40, Bibles and guitars in tow, to sing worship songs? Or the ring bearing/bridal magazine toting hopeful looking for his or her spouse? Or the Frisbee throwing, pine cone catching, plate dropping kid? No. Are some of us? Yes, and ultimately it is the combination of these students and many, many others who make Whitworth the vibrant community it is.
This week, as I have sat trying to write a positive perspective of the Whitworth community, I spent the majority of my time staring at a blank screen. I love the Whitworth community. I traditiated in Warren, spent a semester in BJ and am now an RA in East. But I know there are many students who do not have these warm and fuzzy connections to our campus. I have been blessed to hear some of their stories, learning Whitworth is not the Candy Land so many of us make it to be.
I wanted to write an opinion highlighting the wonderful and unique aspects of our community, but I do not want to alienate the members of my community who already feel isolated. The only means through which I am able to reconcile this tension is appropriately framing my understanding of community. I choose to believe the Whitworth community is striving towards understanding. A people seeking truth.
In many ways I am the manifestation of the stereotypical female Whitworth student. I am a white Protestant raised by two loving (Young Life) parents in an upper middle class neighborhood. I go to church on Sunday, wear Toms, drink coffee and am passionate about issues of social justice. While all of these are aspects of me, they are only the box I could be placed in. There is a great deal beneath these external realities. It is in the sharing of my story and hearing the stories of others authentic relationships begin. These organic relationships are the foundation to a healthy community.
Far too often we view others in the box we have placed them. It is in these placements hostility towards the Whitworth populace emerges. In order to find and enjoy the community we boast of, we must be a people entrenched in the stories of those around us. We cannot nitpick the experiences and backgrounds that align with our own; rather, we must respect and give ear to those drastically different from our own.
Living in a true community requires sacrifice, grace and truth. We must learn to forgo our time and perceptions and respect one another. As we aim at the objective of intentionality, grace must be at the center, for one another and ourselves, communities are built gradually with caution and care. Lastly we need honesty, with ourselves and one another. Not every day is a good day, we must first admit this for ourselves, and be willing to hear the grievances of our peers.
The Whitworth community is far from Utopia, but I have come to know it is full of passionate, loving people carrying stories waiting to be told. It is in the patient pursuit of individual relationships we build our personal communities. It is in the culmination of these idiosyncratic clusters the true Whitworth community is found.