I stood nervously before the class. Had I gone too far this time? Sure, I had just given reasons why I had added the topic of food to the Discipleship and Ethics course, but I wondered if they were convincing. Did even I really think they were true, or was I grasping for reasons?
I assumed that most of the students were thinking, “Ok Mark, fine for you to be excited about this topic, but why are you forcing it on the rest of us?”
The previous summer my daughter Julia had recommended I read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. He led me to think about food and our food system in new ways. As I read, my conviction grew: things must change.
Filled with passion I decided, “we are going to talk about this in class.” My passion and conviction had only increased as I read other authors in preparation for the class. But now I stood insecurely in front of the class.
I told students that the topic of food and food production would provide a great way to review and explore in more depth other themes from the semester. Good words, but the reality was that I had not started the class planning by asking: “what would be a good topic to use for that purpose?” Rather I had asked, “How can I justify giving two class sessions to this food topic?” Then I thought of the idea of using it to review other themes. Was it true, or a flimsy justification?
As the students did their reading I asked them to:
Take note of how the following themes are evident; how do you better understand these themes through the lens of this issue and how do you better understand the food issue through the lens of these themes?
- Principalities and powers
It worked. They saw what I had seen and more. It provided a way to review and deepen.
Even more significantly, however, was how, through students’ reflections, I realized that the significance and breadth of the topic were much greater than I had imagined. I remember the moment. I was reading a student’s reflection about how that week his family, rather than grabbing fast food, committed to make all their suppers and eat them together at the table. He made some comments about healthier food—the sort of thing I had expected. But mostly he reflected on relationship and the way family dynamics changed, positively, through their eating together.
I leaned back and said, “Wow, I did not imagine that coming from this class session.” That was just one of many responses that I had not imagined when I added it to the course. The justification I had given for adding it to the course was true--not flimsy at all. The nervousness and insecurity were a one-time experience—only occurring the first time I did the class. I now start that class session with confidence of its broad relevance and value.
I will copy below the action-reflection assignment that produced the above experience. Some of you have done this, most have not. I encourage all of you to do it this week—again or for the first time. Use the comment feature to share your reflections.
The action part of the assignment is to do something different than your normal routine in relation to food. This is very open ended. Some possibilities include: shop at a farmers’ market, prepare meals at home, get a trial CSA box for one week and prepare meals based on what is in it, visit a farm and discuss issues that have come up in this class, invite others to join you for a meal, have a meal be part of a Bible study or other church event, plant some vegetables, volunteer at a food bank, avoid fast food for the week, eat together as a family, etc. (you may already do some of these things, the idea is to do something that you do not normally do). Come to class prepared to report on what you did and reflect on what you observed and learned through the experience.