Guest Post {Lydia Angell}

I’m excited to share the following essay with you, written and read by my very own sister at the 2014 Baccalaureate Ceremony of East Grand Rapids High School.  I couldn’t be more sad to have missed it, or more proud to be able to share her wisdom with you. Her words resonate deeply with me, as I conclude this chapter of my life and begin the next.  Thank you, Lydia, for challenging me to teach my students here to “fish,” and encouraging me to consider to ask questions that matter in whatever I do next.

Whether you are going to college next year, taking a year off, or finding a job, there will be many things to look forward to and many things to miss as we head off into the “real world”. We will all have days when we miss home and we will all have days when we are so happy to be somewhere else. I have full confidence in all of us that we are well prepared for whatever we choose to take on in the coming years. No one can say that East Grand Rapids is a bad place to grow up. Many, myself included, say that they can’t wait to get out of East, but hardly anyone tries to deny the preparedness that graduates from East have to be successful after they graduate.  

I am sure many of you have heard the old adage, if you give a man a fish you will feed him for a day, but teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. I recently came across a new perspective of the story in Shane Claiborne’s book, The Irresistible Revolution. He says “as we consider economics, some of us will give people fish. Others will teach people to fish. But still others must be looking at who owns the pond and who polluted it, for these are also essential questions for our survival.”

Two summers ago I had the opportunity to intern at Mel Trotter Ministries, a homeless shelter downtown. I always knew that poverty and homelessness were problems in places like Detroit, Chicago and New York, but when I heard people say that the homeless in Grand Rapids have the opportunity to eat six meals a day, I believed that we didn’t have a poverty problem. The real issue is not that the homeless are not being feed fish, the problem is no one is teaching them how to fish, no one is asking who owns the pond. It was through my personal interactions with the homeless that I learned the importance of reaching out. I realized that our generation are the ones that can teach people to fish.

It’s this kind of forward thinking that I fully expect from many of my peers. I see in them vast potential, potential that can be realized because of the opportunities we are afforded growing up in East. This is my hope for our class, and for myself, that we are not content with passivity and that we all become leaders in our own right. In our class I see future activists and politicians, I see doctors and nurses, lawyers and teachers, amongst a myriad of other careers.  Whether you are staying in Grand Rapids or going to a foreign country next year, I encourage everyone to at least help someone put a worm on their hook. I truly believe that we are all capable of making a small change that could impact someone else’s life in a large way.

– Lydia Angell, East Grand Rapids High School Baccalaureate Speech, May 2014


Viento Sur

Here in Cantabria, wind is a fact of life.

We give names to the different winds.


Photo credit: Google Images

Put signs on the doors.

Translation: “Door closed due to south wind. Back entrance on General Mola Street. Sorry for any inconveniences.” Photo credit: a fellow Santander Fulbrighter, Jon-Michael Poff

And put coats on the dogs.


Photo credit: Google Images

Last week the viento sur, the south wind, once again blew us home from the bus stop and inverted our umbrellas. I resented the wind as I hurried home from a friend’s house, school bag slung over one shoulder, umbrella in hand, and (soon-to-be-soggy) baguette in the other. But the wind cannot be resisted. No matter which direction you tilt your umbrella, you will still get pelted by the rain.  Really, your only option is to surrender.  Sometimes that even means closing your umbrella and getting a second shower for the day.  Sometimes that means forking over a few euros for a taxi ride (cheaper than a new umbrella!) or hopping on the bus instead of walking.  The winds have been especially strong the past few weeks. Not just the viento sur, but the winds of change. The winds that are sweeping me home sweet home in 5 weeks.  The winds that have already come to begin to carry off my Fulbrighter friends on their next grand adventure.

I decided early on to close up the umbrella and soak in the wind and rain.  Although there is really no other option than to surrender to the winds of change, you do get to choose whether to laugh or to cry about it. The tears tears will eventually win out, but I’ve been trying extra hard to choose joy.  Celebrating instead of grieving, creating more memories, instead of dwelling on what has been.  It’s a choice, and some days it’s more difficult to choose to celebrate, but I’m trying.

We sent off my roommate (or rather, flatmate), Ally, the first of the Fulbrighters to leave the nest, in high-style last week: first, with a gathering of Spanish friends, at the local “American” diner, and then following night, a farewell with American friends at a Spanish tapas bar. So fitting.

Last weekend I went to Asturias with Sam (a dear Fulbrighter friend), stayed with a Spanish family, drank sidra, saw 9th century pre-Romanesque architecture, feared for my life as we drove up the windiest of mountain roads, and survived a very, very late-night at a rural “festival,” of sorts. A story for another day.

Next weekend I’m going to, drumroll please… A CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL IN FRANCE!!!!!!!

And in less than a month, the number of natural redheads in Santander is going to double, as three fabulous Angell women embark on a trans-atlantic journey to visit me!  Let the celebration continue!

“For the traveler, as you finish up your time in one place and prepare to move on to another, may the road before you reveal her holy secrets even as you treasure up the stories from your past. May you walk with sure feet and steady gaze to tomorrow even as you hold the memory gifts from yesterday. May you move forward with confidence, courage, and peace, knowing you will never walk alone.” – Emily Freeman