• Shanley McConnell

Oxford: October.

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Three weeks. And maybe a few days more. That is how long I have been living in this new city.


Oxford is a transition; it is so wonderfully overwhelming------full of the beautiful and ambitious. I am humbled to be among them; these students sitting with their heads bowed before knowledge and desire.


My friends, I do not want to bore you with the details of moving. I am sure that all of you are familiar with change already. You know what it is like to cardboard-box the memories and crate a whole load of essentials somewhere South or North to a home two-hours to twelve-hours to halfway-across-the-world away. And you've done this for the chance to grasp hold of new ideas with new friends through new experiences.


When everything is new, I think we start to see a bit of the familiar in it too. I have moved enough times to know that stability, comfort and intimacy are chameleons of grace. We carry them with us, recognising that the humanness of our longing-----to feel safe in the presence of those we love-----is shared with those, who, given the chance, surprise us with their willingness to risk embarrassment, discomfort and disappointment for the sake of kindness.


I cannot begin to express how grateful I am for all the dear friends I have made in the last three weeks of living in Oxford. If I am honest, I will tell you that I was afraid. This was the first move that I had chosen to make, and, at first, I was alone.


I have never been lonely. What I have found was a community of people, richly diverse and completely familiar. I see in them my longing to be found deserving-----to be accepted and loved.


I have learned that the way we spend our love is seen in the way we spend our lives. So many of us here at Oxford, especially those in my MSt Course, have chosen to commit our lives to this: to the research and writing and rewriting and reliving of this human need------the human reach----- towards love.


We all know that we must first learn to change if we wish to see this same change in the world. I think the same might be said for peace and happiness; if we want to see the hope of these manifest themselves in the wider world, we must first seek to live peaceably with those nearest to us in both heart and location.


And yet, there is something more to this: If we really want to see the world changed, we must also learn to draw a wider circle around who we consider to be our family.


It is our responsibility to step out into the unfamiliar and love. In this loving, we invite others to share in our humanness and our hope. This is how we find a foothold in the world; how we create a family that stretches to reach the far-corners of the-frightened-and-the-lonely. It is here, in the midst of all the new, where we find stability, comfort and home.


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