Science Corner: The Bottom-up Route to your Community (Pt 2)

Photo of my children being silly

These are my personal collaborators in local community engagement.

HL asks:

What I am seeing is that the understandably busy lives of even highly motivated Christian professionals often lead them to become more and more isolated from those parts of society most in need of outreach, friendship, and fellowship from Christians. So…how can those in the hectic years of research, working on getting those final papers done for the PhD, etc., not lose touch with the problems within their own local community?


Your career can help you connect to your local community, your church can help you connect to your local community; now I’d like to suggest that children can help you connect to your local community. They don’t have to be your kids, although that’s one option. There are plenty of ways to make kids a part of your life, and plenty of kids who could benefit from what you have to offer.

Why kids? For starters, they count as part of your local community. The needs of kids around you are the needs of your local community, and serving those needs is a worthwhile end itself. And as members of your local community, those kids may also be aware of needs that are under your radar. I have plenty of ways to learn about global problems–refugee crises, climate change, financial collapse–but my kids are often my best and only source for what’s going on in my town–the family that can’t pay their medical bills, the most needed items at the food pantry, where the local Toys-for-Tots drop-off will be. I don’t need a kid to tell me that food pantries or Toys-for-Tots exist, but I’m much more likely to take a concrete action when someone is telling me specifically what to do and when and where to do it.

Kids are also good at breeding humility; they don’t see themselves as too good for certain tasks. In the parable of the good Samaritan, one gets the sense that the first two highly motivated professionals pass by the injured man because helping him would be beneath them. If that’s something you struggle with, kids will gladly help you get over yourself if you give them even half a chance.

Children also warrant special mention because they are sometimes perceived as an obstacle to an academic career or other life goals of the highly motivated. My own limited observation is that most academics either delayed having kids until their careers were firmly established, or delayed pursuing the tenure track until their kids were older. Maybe those are the most sensible options. Maybe you have other reasons for not having kids right now or at all; there are plenty of legitimate ones. But if you are concerned about connecting with your local community, maybe give some extra consideration to how kids might fit into your life. They don’t have to be yours, they don’t have to be permanent additions; maybe your connection is reading to the local kindergarten now and again or holding babies at the local hospital. Just be ready to follow wherever those kids might lead you.

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Andy Walsh

Andy has worn many hats in his life. He knows this is a dreadfully clichéd notion, but since it is also literally true he uses it anyway. Among his current metaphorical hats: husband of one wife, father of two elementary school students, reader of science fiction and science fact, enthusiast of contemporary symphonic music, and chief science officer. Previous metaphorical hats include: comp bio postdoc, molecular biology grad student, InterVarsity chapter president (that one came with a literal hat), music store clerk, house painter, and mosquito trapper. Among his more unique literal hats: British bobby, captain’s hats (of varying levels of authenticity) of several specific vessels, a deerstalker from 221B Baker St, and a railroad engineer’s cap. His monthly Science in Review is drawn from his weekly Science Corner posts — Wednesdays, 8am (Eastern) on the Emerging Scholars Network Blog.

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