Over the past school year I have had the privilege to work for a very special young girl. When I began babysitting for her a year ago this September, she was just undergoing a massive change in her life. Rather than begin the upcoming school year at the school she had been attending since pre-first, she would be moving to another school, one that specializes teaching children with dyslexia.
I noticed early on that she had major difficulties while reading. Her frustration was tangible and I felt that as much as she disliked reading she desired to read, and read well. Her desire to read is much like Father Kolvenbach’s claim that “we face a world that has an even greater need for the faith that does justice” (31). The problem facing our world, as well as this young girl is that we do not lack the faculties to flourish and persevere but we lack the faith that bolsters those faculties.
In Jane Smiley’s criticism “Say it ain’t so, Huck: Second Thoughts on Mark Twain’s ‘Masterpiece’” she touches on Father Kolvenbach’s notion that we live in a faithless world. Her main disapproval with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is that neither Huck nor Twain “takes Jim’s desire for freedom at all seriously; that is, they do not accord it the respect that a man’s passion deserves” (357). Smiley categorizes this lack of respect as a racial issue. She claims that Huck loves Jim and appreciates his friendship, but that is as far as the relationship can go. Huck leads Jim away from his previous way of life and towards “ignorance” (31). I disagree with her idea that Jim is nothing more than Huck’s “sidekick” (357), but rather that he is his only chance to make a real connection with another human being. Ultimately they can no longer remain friends but that is not to say that they did not previously have a deep and meaningful friendship.
For Toni Morrison in “This Amazing, Troubling Book” what seems to trouble her most is Huck’s melancholy nature. She feels that Huck has no faith in humanity and his only hope to “live without terror, melancholy, and suicidal thoughts” (388) is Jim. Morrison also feels that Huck is given Jim as a black father figure, and she argues that Huck cannot see past race and humbles himself in front of the father but not in front of the black man. Morrison claims that Huck’s relationship to Jim is his only source of faith in humanity and births in him a sense of solidarity with humanity.
After I returned from the summer and began to babysit again I noticed a drastic change in her. She wanted to read and was reading beautifully. She no longer shied away from activities that involved reading and no longer needed me to read for her. I believe her improvements were because of her new school. What struck me as interesting while reading “The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education” was how Father Kolvenbach’s observations of education and location were similar in Silicon Valley and Baltimore. While I saw the young girl gain faith and flourish in her reading, other children ten minutes away were “condemned to ignorance and poverty” (31).
It is our duty as students of a Jesuit University to do whatever we can in our power to help educate those less fortunate than us. Without doing so we are doomed to live in a faithless world that lacks solidarity between all people. The use of Huckleberry Finn to illustrate this point makes cohesion of these articles ideas difficult, but satisfying. All three of the articles read for today can agree on one idea: do not lose your “Jims.” Morrison states that Huck’s only source of goodness in the world is Jim and without him “there is no more story to tell” (391). As part of a Jesuit society our “story” is Kolvenbach’s service of faith and promotion of justice, which we must respect and help to thrive in today’s age.