I had a phone call this afternoon that suddenly modified my aforementioned idea of opening a school or becoming a foster parent, etc. Here it is:
A student of mine lost her mother this semester, and she's just now back on campus. Much like me, she has spent the vast majority of her life caring for her parents and siblings. Also like me, her mother has been sick since her infancy. Losing her mother was a blow, but also a giant release when it comes to the stress she has been under her entire life.
According to the dean (who I just spoke to at length) the class that she is taking with me is her favorite class. She wants to eventually declare a Women's Studies major, and so she obviously needs my class to do this. In doing this thing it is that I do...I have decided to commit a serious amount of energy to this student in order to assure that she will not only do very well in my class, but that she will be able to look back at this transitional moment in her life and be very proud of what she learned and accomplished. Obviously, it is going to take some doing on her part, but she's a good kid, a solid writer, and I am confident that she has the chutzpah to make lemonade out of her semester with me...
Anyway...this is one of those moments that I am writing down and taking note of...so that I don't get so caught up in my self-important rat race in a few years and forget my original intentions. In asking myself what more I can do than just being a college professor, I am starting to think that I should like to settle somewhere and purchase a very large home--not for just for little me, but for the community I wish to build around me. In this home, I will offer residence to a handful of students and scholars each year. Obviously, the selection process will be rigorous, but what I will look for are students who would benefit the most from actually living in a cozy home environment. Some students need this. Others don't. For the ones who do, why is nothing like this offered or available? I am envisioning homemade dinners and a feeling of community and "family" that goes beyond the dorm or Greek experience. I'm sure that there would necessarily be an intellectual and community service based component to this experience. As altruistic as I would like to be, obviously, the rent won't be free, and the bar will be very high for the students who are given the opportunity to lodge in the house. Still, it will be good. The lawn will always be mowed, my furry and floppy-eared pets will always be showered with love, and, if I bring children into this world, then they will have more than their fair share of hands to chase and swing them around.
Part of this comes from recognition of the fact that I really love this age group of college kids. I see myself in their struggles and relate very well to what they are going through. I also just like being around them and their energy, and I don't see this going away as I get older. If anything, maintaining close relationships with young people is what also keeps us young, right?
As the dean pointed out on the phone to me just now, my student has been rendered "without a home to go home to". Imagine...if only...I could bring her home with me...