by Christine Coy-Fohr
9/11 happened when I was three weeks into my freshman year of college. I was a patriotic, liberal 18-year-old with little concern for religion at that point, but with a huge concern for nonviolence, justice, and peace. I really thought that, as a country, we would step back to consider the big picture behind what happened. That we would not disregard the terror and the hurt, but that we would ask questions about why this could possibly have happened. Why America? What have we done? How has it affected people around the world? Why would such hatred be targeted toward this place?
Sadly, our patriotism did not lead us to ask those questions. Instead, we became entrenched in our Americanness. We became a country of camps, entrenched in politics, religion, ideology and “rightness.” 9/11 kicked what “post-modern” tendencies were emerging back into the dark ages. Right and wrong were suddenly hard truths again. Perspective and experience were kicked to the curb, and with them, any hope of the world truly working in the direction of peace.
After my four years of college, amid that growing cynicism, I wanted to become part of something that directly challenged the cold, calculated way that our country was turning. I wanted to throw myself into something where story was valued more than numbers, where the value of experience overrode the value of a paycheck. That’s how I found the YAV program. It was one of the rare opportunities in our country where someone could say, “I believe another way is possible.” A way that values walking alongside rather than leading. A way that values the richness of simplicity over the emptiness of wealth. A way that acknowledges that other countries and our own forgotten neighborhoods have profound offerings to share with this broken country. That is why I became a YAV – to take a deep, hope-filled, year-long breath that I might learn to live in a radically different way in this hurting country of ours.
This, I believe, is the hope of our YAV Alumni community. More than that, it is the call of our YAV Alumni community. That we’ll connect with friends, yes. That we’ll rehash silly stories or life-changing experiences, of course. But more importantly, that we’ll be sustained for the long-haul. That we’ll continually come to this place and this community, knowing that here are the people who can hold me accountable. Here are the people who won’t led me slide back into America’s encampments and consumerism. Here are the people who will keep my faith ignited with a passion for story and relationship, rather than dogma and doctrine. This community is where we can collectively imagine how God is calling us to be – as citizens of the US and the realm of God. May we never forget that calling to the long-haul – to community and simplicity and foolish hope. And as we live into that calling, may we always remember the faces along the way who have told us their stories and shown us that, indeed, another way is possible.