Note: This will go out to our campus through the Office of Faculty Governance tommorow.
Dear Carolina Community:
When I was in 8th grade, I had a Sunday school teacher with a brunette bouffant that reached a good foot over her head. Even in the late 1970’s her look was decidedly dated. Yet she was a savant in the ways of adolescent girls. In our gender specific break out Sunday school groups, she would begin each gathering by an around-the-room introduction that was conducted in this format: “My name is Mimi. God loves me. And I’m worth something.” Sunday after Sunday, the grace in these sentences began to penetrate - through the acne cream, the failed Farrah Fawcett hairstyles, the puppy love heartbreaks, and the deeper troubles that some of us experienced. The family in crisis, unnamed racism, despair at believing that there was no place in the world where we might truly be ourselves.
Here at UNC inherent worth can be a foreign concept. Whether faculty, staff, or student we get here because of what we’ve done. The grades, the recommendation letter, the articles, the accomplishments. We compare ourselves to our peers who got the prestigious grant, made the dean’s list, won the award, received the right invitation, or secured the promotion. There is victory in being first out of the gate with the hard-hitting tweet or the Facebook post that best encapsulates the current controversy. Compete, Compare, and … Collapse. And, if we’re lucky, and the collapse is not too great, we repeat.
I was 24 and sitting with a teenager who had made a recent suicide attempt when I first remembered Mrs. Moore’s Sunday School mantra. The 18-year-old was a gentle young woman who had stopped school and began cleaning rooms in the cancer ward of the hospital where we both were employed. The immune-compromised patients who relied on her to keep them safe through their treatment loved her and routinely brought her thank you gifts and treats. Yet she did not see herself as worthy and poured out a tangled litany of self-loathing rooted in difficult life events and circumstances. Through my memory, Mrs. Moore’s mantra came coursing back. I asked my young client, who I knew shared the same faith, what it would be like to say those words to herself in the mirror each morning. “I am Evelyn*. God loves me. And I’m worth something.” Her tears fell like a silent waterfall as she struggled with whether she could give herself the worth that had been denied and sometimes taken from her.
All faith traditions have their own language of human worth and dignity. I am thinking about mine in this moment of pain on our campus, even as I expect you are thinking about yours. No matter where this belief comes from or how we express it, our task now is to communicate our own and each other’s worth as clearly and as often as we possibly can. You are valuable. Period. You can be good at sports or bad. You can make great grades or fail the class. You may be a great listener or talk entirely too much. Your research may change the world or make an incremental advance in the field. None of it, not one bit, speaks to your worth on this planet. All the things we do and take pride in are worth doing because of what those contributions mean for others or to us, not because they convince the world that we are worth something. No one can give us worth, and no one can take it away.
I am Mimi or Lamar or Katie or Kevin. Sam or Neel. Skylar or Cameron. Jane or Don. Jessica or Vijay. Robert, Gina, Pat, David, Jill, or Adam …. I am worth something. You are worth something. Say it once. Say it again. Say it about each other. Say it until you believe it. No matter what the world tells you.
Grace and Peace,
Note: If you are a student at UNC Chapel Hill and need help, use these resources.
• Walk into Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) during regular business hours 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you need a parking pass and would like to print one at home before you walk in, please call 919-966-3658. You can also obtain one at the 1st floor front desk prior to going to CAPS on the 3rd floor.
• After hours, call 919-966-3658 for counseling and support
• Other resources include:
o National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or in Spanish by calling 1-888-628-9454
o Text Support Line - text STEVE to 741741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor
Beautiful. Simply true. I hope it resonates with the young people who need this badly.
CAPS is useless.
Look into it & find out why?
Then do something about it.
That’s a start.
CAPS is useless.
Look into it.
Find out why?
Then do something to improve it.