Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Another Interesting Night

March 19th, 2010 · No Comments

Yesterday I headed back down to New Hope Christian Centre for yet another night at the Thursday after-school club. My first experience was largely negative, while the second was much more fulfilling, so I didn’t know what to expect for attempt #3.

When I arrived, I caught up with Duane and company. They seemed legitimately sad that I won’t be around for the next few weeks over break (I’ll be in the US, Greece, and Italy!), which made me feel like I was really making a contribution to the organisation. One of the best aspects of volunteering is the warm, fuzzy feeling of accomplishment. I definitely felt that way, in spades. Go me.

I spoke to the social work student Katie and Duane’s wife Clare about the plans for the evening. Since some of the children requested more music, we took out the church’s electric keyboard. Unfortunately, none of us really knew how to play. I expected lots of banging on keys and loud, discordant noises, and believe me, I was not let down.

When the kids arrived, they jumped all over that keyboard like a fat kid on a dozen Dunkin Donuts. Josh, the resident big kid (read: bully) shouldered his way through the line of kids waiting to make ‘music’ and proceeded to bang his fists on the keys as hard as he could. It is an interesting phenomenon how one bad seed can change the dynamic of a group of kids so dramatically. He was acting like a jackass, so everybody else needed to follow suit. One of Josh’s lackeys and I had the following conversation:

Kid: “Hey, what’s your name?”

Me: “Andrew. What’s yours?”

Kid: “Suck my willy, wanker!”

Me: “Pleasure meeting you too.”

I suggested to Duane that Josh and a few of his troublemaking friends be banned. So he kicked them out for a week, leaving a motley mix of impressionable children without a rabble-rousing big kid to lead them. To my surprise, most of them went from borderline sociopaths to reasonable teenagers with whom I managed to hold decent conversation. What a pleasant change.

We played cards for a while and had a pretty fun time. One of the boys informed me that my accent sounds like Duane’s, meaning I sound like a Texan. No one really knows what their voice truly sounds like to the ears of other people, but I’m pretty sure I don’t sound like a southerner. Learn something new every day, I suppose.  

Later on, the boys started getting rowdy again. Instead of trying to calm them down, which wouldn’t work, I decided to channel their hyperactivity into something entertaining for me and the other adults. I taught them how to ‘elephant fight’ by putting your hand over your face with your left hand, while crossing your right arm behind the left, and swinging it around like a maniacal pachyderm. Google Images does a better job explaining than words ever could:

During the debriefing session, Duane and Clare lead us in prayer. This is something they usually do, being a Christian group. Usually I sort of zone out during prayer, not at all interested in giving thanks to the good lord Jesus. This time I actually listened carefully to their words and was moved. They thanked the lord for the opportunity to help some children enjoy their probably difficult lives. They thanked Jesus for the human capacity to empathise, giving us the ability to put ourselves in the shoes of the kids and really help them. I thought their words were so moving, I even said Amen in the end.

Hours logged: 3

Total hours: 8.5

Tags: Andrew B

Religious Identity, Are They Really All That Different?

September 8th, 2009 · No Comments

In the past week the Norwich Humanities group have visited numerous cathedrals, temples and Gurdwara ‘s and in these visits I have learned a great deal. In many of these religious venues I was uncomfortable simply because the ideologies/beliefs of these particular religions did not complement my own. Being taken out of my comfort zone to learn an experience the ways of other cultures, has given me some insight as to how these groups must feel when they are in a culture, and the majority is viewing them/. But as I went into these diverse places of worship, one major similarity caught my attention. In fact the concept of religion itself is all very similar to me.

Religion, in my definition, is when people have a shared belief in some form of the supernatural or higher power.  It is a man made construct, that gives some people meaning and purpose for their lives. When visiting the places of worship over the past few weeks, this as a very prevalent commonality. But what was even more interesting was that the ideals and beliefs of these different religions were not all that different. Each form of religion has a belief system of what is “good religious behavior” and then “sins”. Every religion, has a written documents that tell the story of their lord, and some form a prayer, followed by various religious customs, and of course commandments or laws that must be followed accompanied by a place of worship. Why is it then that there are so many religions?

Visiting the different cathedrals temples etc. I found that when people have a faith, it can potentially be the strongest force that a man or woman can feel. So much so that even if others are unable to understand another person’s religion, to that specific individual, their religion is like second nature. I found this true for every religious venue I went to. Each person speaking about their faith had such a strong passion and emotional connection, that even if I could not understand “why”, I could not deny that their faith was beautiful. 

The idea of religion is something that I can definitely appreciate but the reason that I am indifferent to religion in general (or at least the ones I have studied) is the prejudices and hypocrisy that comes with it. When I used to attend church I found that most of the people, who were attending this place of worship, were not holding true to the beliefs of Christianity. They would come in and do the general routine work and then leave. No one that I encountered had true faith or belief in not only what they were doing, but why. Then I began to research the history of various religions, and discovered that many besides being sexist, were prejudice and hateful towards other people in the past. Religion in my eyes became something that people followed blindly never questioning its routes or asking why, and as people began to ask why, newer religions began to form and others just followed along.

Religion is a very touchy subject, one that can never be understood. The fact that their now exist over 200 religions that all claim to be the truth or the chosen people is a battle that I don’t wish to enter. People have faith and I can respect it, but that is as far as I am willing to go, because at the end of the day, religion is just another hegemonic apparatus that is used to keep the subordinates in line. At least in my opinion. I have faith in people and their abilities and do believe that there is some force that is watching over me. This maybe lost loved ones, people who are far from me, family, or a higher power, I am unsure yet, but for right now faith is enough for me.

Tags: Anthony