Jan 252009
Authors: Anne Marie Merline

Is your humanity in check?

This month I embark on teaching a course based in the concept of human rights for the third time. This course follows American history and its actions regarding human rights in comparison to those the United Nations’ “Declaration of Human Rights” dictate.

To look at international issues, our class also compares and contrasts human rights in other countries, mostly in contemporary society.

Human rights encompass everything from not killing another human being to treating individuals with dignity and respect.

Most of us will live our lives without the thought of taking another human life, but all of us are challenged to treat others with dignity and respect almost every second of every day. In this world where human power struggles are a part of “who we are and what we do,” we are rarely challenged to think deeply about how we respect others in our daily lives.

In my mind, there is nothing like attending a funeral to make me reflect on how I treat others who are still walking the earth with me.

I attended a funeral over winter break, and it really puts life into perspective. This funeral was for the mother of a student of mine, and, of course, it really made me think about how I have cherished this one student for almost four years.

As I was driving to and from the service, I thought and thought about how I relate to my students and how we all cherish each other in the classroom as humans, not as other people who are in a different proximity to the whiteboard.

The instructional staff is just as relieved to have the semester end as are the students. As the semesters have ended, I have seen hundreds — now approaching thousands — of students walk out the doors of my classroom.

Of these thousands, I have a couple dozen students whom I consider to be friends of mine — some of them are even my Facebook friends.

David, the student whose mother’s funeral I attended over the break, is one of the four students I befriended almost four years ago, whom I have always called “my boys.”

When “my boys” left my classroom, and still remained friends, I wondered about all the other students with whom I did not connect on a level different from the teacher-student relationship that I am required to relate on. I once asked this to one of them, knowing darn well that I did not need the better part of 100 new friends every 16 weeks or so.

I wonder how and why we connect with some people, and not others. Fate, Karma, some sort of attraction to one’s soul — I do not know.

Although the course has not been fully run for me, it is interesting to see how those who I consider student-friends, and those I have not appreciated on this level weave in and out of my life as the years pass.

I do know that a handful of students who have entered my classroom have fostered my growth process in ways that I cannot articulate. How lucky am I to be surrounded by young people who teach me new lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life deep within my soul?

As an import to Fort Collins, I realized it was not how many parties I was invited to, nor the number of weddings or bar mitzvahs, but that the real test of a human bond is that of a funeral.

It is not a time of joy to be cherished, but a time of reflection of how our walk here on earth with another human has passed, and how we have respected that person along the way.

Is your humanity in check? Thanks to “my boys” — Dave, Sean, Chris and Eli — for fostering mine.

Anne Marie Merline is an instructor for the University Honors Program. Her column appears biweekly Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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