“Professor Christopherson, I have been told you can help me,” her voice was like a lifeless monotone.
At the time of the student’s interruption, I was sitting at my desk looking over student papers. My preference would have been to look out my window at the building across the quad. In my small office, I have bookshelves on both walls and a credenza underneath the window. I am used to students walking into my office asking for help with their assignments. However, I am not used to seeing a student whose appearance speaks of someone in shock. She looked like a white sheet just laundered. Her olive eyes were dull and glassy.
“Miss what is your name,” I asked?
“My name is Lucia Schroeder. I am a business student at this university.”
“Why don’t you have a seat,” I heaved myself out of my chair and pointed to an uncomfortable chair on the other side of the desk, “are you hurt?”
Lucia sat in the chair prim and proper giving me the impression she was well bred, but her wardrobe told a different story. She wore jeans with holes in them and a loose-fitting sweatshirt. Her attire did nothing for her curvaceous body. I studied her for a minute trying to figure out what would bring her to me. A business major coming to me seemed a little odd especially since I teach sociology.
“What can I help you with?” I looked into olive colored eyes.
“My friend Jenny is a sociology major and said that you were a great instructor,” Lucia’s spoke with a hitch.
“Are you thinking about switching majors?”
“No! No, it’s not funny. Can’t you see this country is flushing itself down the drain?” I retreated to my side of the desk, all the time trying to remember a student, named Jenny. The next time I would meet her I was going to remind her I was a sociology professor and not a psychiatrist or a guidance counselor. However, I surmised that she was taking the vitriol a little too seriously.
“Miss – Miss, what is not funny?” “My name is Lucia,” she reminded me, “you were making fun about what I said.”
Not realizing it, I might have been chuckling, “let’s start at the beginning.”
Lucia explained that because that the national election was her first time to vote, so she immersed herself into the process. She wanted the experience to be special, to her was a sort of right of passage, from teenager to an adult citizen. Lucia was taken by surprise, by the level of hate and violence, at some of the rallies. Because of all of it Lucia’s confidence level had taken a major hit along with her lifestyle. She felt naive, gullible and oblivious instead of being confident, rational and prepared.
“We are going to go back to some basics. The type of basic which is the essence of whom we are. We’ll be talking about moral and values. I want you to think about your definition of values,” I said.
I was startled, when her soft voice stated, “I am not sure, what you mean by values.”
Clearing my throat I answered, “the meaning of values may be defined as a measure of something worth and good.”
Lucia slipped out my office door, in silence and deep in thought. I was about to return to reading student papers when it dawned on me. When I realized, we hadn’t scheduled our next meeting time. I dashed into the hall, looked in both directions, but she was gone.
Three days later I was searching for a book which was on the right wall of my office when I smelled perfume. Lucia stood in the doorway.
“Lucia you ran away before we were done. Can we agree to set up another meeting time before you run out of here?” My husky voice must have stupefied her?
“I was dismayed that I hadn’t learned anything about values before I came to college,” she looked glum. Despite that glum look, I could listen to her fluting voice.
It is unfortunate that prosperity overwhe lms a society. During my teaching career, I have seen students that have come from homes, in which their fathers trying to achieve the American dream, work themselves to death. And the mother who has to go to work to help. In the end, both parents have forgotten that the most important gauge, of their success, is their child. Lucia did not have any values incorporated into her life.
“Surprise! Very few young people are prepared for adulthood,” I motioned her to a chair.
“I believed after twelve years of schools I should be better prepared for life,” Lucia argued.
I laughed too heartily at her statement because high cheek bones turned ripe tomato red, “no one in human history has ever been prepared for adulthood. Especially the humans that went through the school of hard knocks.” I commenced stifling a chuckle.
“Well, I guess I better go back to class. I am very sorry I took up your precious time,” she stood up to leave. “Oh, no I signed on to help you. Which I still want to help to do.” I walked around the desk and blocked her. “So, what are your values?”
Lucia sat and rattled off that she valued honesty, dependable, reliability, committed, motivated, and respectful.
“OK,” my smile was guarded. “So, now that I’m aware of my values are. Where do I go from here?”
“We need to decide what type of values you have,” I clamped my eyes shut. I wanted to go slow because Lucia’s inner being was so shaken.
“What are the types?” “Core, social, and moral. The values you claim as yours are core values. Those values are in a state of flux. People improve some, add or subtract others.”
“Why wasn’t I aware of all this,” Lucia was visibly shaken?
“Values are not taught in a classroom. They are not part of a classroom exercise. Values are taught by parents, family, teachers, society, and church.”
Lucia looked at her watch and looked up into my face blinking a lot, “I have class in about ten minutes.”
Lucia was excused after we decided on our next meeting time. I instructed her to set aside, a lot of time for discussion when we met. I planned that the next time we met we would finish this discussion. Then we would give it a time and then discuss how she felt. When Lucia came into my office the next time. I saw signs of improvement. She was walking a little straighter. Her expressive face was less drawn and more alive.
“So where do we start,” I asked as she sat.
“Let me ask you some questions about you. Because I am wondering if I am understanding morals and values,” she suggested. “From the look of your nose, I would guess you’ve been in a lot of fights.” Her high cheeks changed to light red. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude.”
“Don’t be. Your summation was right. In my youth, I learned to box which helped me to fight for what I believed were the right causes.”
“So you believe a person should fight for their beliefs?”
“Yes,” I smiled back, “so tell me what kind of values are we talking about,” I asked? I wanted to get her attention off of me and back on her.
“We’re talking about morals.”
Lucia and I talked about the areas of human life from which morals were derived from society, government, self, and religion. I repeated that values and morals are not taught in a classroom, but are learned as we go through life.
“So moral values are in a constant state of flux,” Lucia argued.
“No —— yes. They are in flux, but not necessarily all the time. Let me illustrate most civilized societies derives their own morals and laws from the Roman System of Law. As societies advance the old system of laws to erode.”
“OK. Explain to me how we get moral from our own self.”
I used the example of infants and young toddlers. A child that is forbidden to touch or take an object in early life, learns to look over the shoulder if their being observed. Over the years a child derives the capacity to discern right from wrong.
“We have discussed core and social values and with your help, I have also learned that values are derived from the self.”
“The last source is religion. All of the world religions have their own lists of right and wrong by which a person should live. Most often a follower of a given religion will give a big show o f following those religions behavioral codes.”
“So where does that leave us,” Lucia asked?
“For your generation, the job is going to be finding you own sets of values for this country. It’s not going to be easy,” I said.
“Can we go back to the old set of values,” she eyed me with skepticism?
“It’s up to our society what values it wants to go by, so I can’t give you a definite answer.”
“What about you?” “Years ago a question was brought up concerning why some of our youth has joined ISIS. I have resolved that our country’s values have been replaced by the deadly sins. I understand from history that this has happened to all nations that were considered great. Just, before the fall.”
“It is a little sad isn’t it,” she said.
“Yes! Greed, gluttony, lust, covetousness, anger, envy, and sloth. What is sad is that the human race keeps doing it. If we paid attention to history, we could avoid all of this.”
“I have to admit that I have seen all of it the last few years. Jenny was right you helped me,” Lucia stepped forward and hugged me.
“You did the work. I just guided you like a fog light.” Lucia left my office smiling. All I hope is that Lucia and her generation will learn that greed, gluttony, and envy will not make America First. Our society values and morals will do that.