By Rev. David Epps
I am somewhat bemused by all the attention given to “safe spaces” for university students these days. Not all colleges are going along with this sort of thing but enough of them are that a great deal of media attention has been garnered. So, I began to ponder where in my own life that I had the advantage of safe spaces.
The first thing that came to mind was home. Home was always a safe space. Nothing bad occurred there, no one was allowed to threaten or bully me, and every genuine need was provided. And then I turned 6. At the age of 6, I entered first grade which, back then, was the first time any kid went off to school. There, I discovered that life wasn’t safe anymore. There were tests, rules, discipline, and the possibility of conflict on the playground or on the bus.
That continued until junior high. And then it got worse. During the seventh grade various thugs from older grades would occasionally steal my lunch money. As a kid who was mostly gentle, I became a target – not all the time, but enough — for those trying to prove their manhood by pushing a younger kid around.
In the eighth grade I went out for football and somehow made the team. There was one ninth grade kid, a big second-string tackle, who continually violated my space that was nowhere near safe. Finally, the last week of the season, I took my helmet off at practice and slammed it into his head. Amazingly, his bullying ceased.
I went into ninth grade determined to end the aggression on my person and, within a couple of months, my safe space was wherever I happened to be.
What followed were high school sports, competition for girlfriends, karate classes and tournaments, all which brought about the possibility of failure and hurt feelings. After graduation, I took a construction job for four months with men who had no time for my need for sensitivity and understanding. Then came the United States Marine Corps where there was nary a safe space to be found. There was a war on and military people were trained to be warriors and not wimps.
When I returned to the university, I found that instructors and professors expected students to be men and woman who could deal with the pressures of academic life. In my case, before I graduated, I had a wife and two kids. I carried a full load while working nearly full-time. When I walked across the stage at graduation, I did so with the knowledge that I was ready for life. And, mostly, I was.
Life was not then, and is not now, easy. But, then, real life never is. Several weeks ago, I saw an interview with a college student, a young man. He was apparently on the losing side of the election. When the interviewer asked him what his reaction was to the election he said, “Well, I stayed in my room and cried most of the day.”
Seriously? As that great British philosopher, Sir Michael Jagger, once said, “You can’t always get what you want.” Life is going to be full of disappointments and, in the real world there are few “safe spaces.” Whoever pretends there are does these poor people no good in the long run.
Fortunately, not all university students or young adults are in need of someone to provide for them safe spaces. The world, while beautiful and full of opportunity, is also a hostile, competitive, and dangerous place and the sooner one learns that, the better.
But, if one feels that one must cry all day and stay in bed because things did not go one’s way, at least have the decency not to go on national television and admit it.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]