There is always a very humbling experience when I participate in a graduation or a pinning ceremony. This is not because I feel that I may have contributed in any way to the development of these students. In fact, I have not–and this is not modesty. The emotion that comes from these ceremonies has to do with something else: I have been a witness to a process of giving birth to beauty. And I emphasize: a witness. Of course, my colleagues and I (and I include here all colleagues, from faculty, to student services, to administration, to people working in all areas of the college) were there: we had lectures, graded papers, got angry at times, rejoiced at other times, but we still were only witnesses. Active witnesses, but witnesses. Beauty was already present in these students. We may have checked the status of the pregnancy at times, helped them in one way or another, but the beauty in them was growing without our doing. The students who graduate have been through many things. There were times when they may have considered to give it up. But they went on, faithful to the beauty that they knew they had within themselves.
Life truly is a miracle. We often believe we have much power over it, but, fortunately for us, there are moments when we realize that life takes place beyond ourselves. Such a moment is a pinning ceremony, like the one in which I participated today: during it, students thank the ones who have been together with them in their journey–their witnesses. It is an exercise in giving thanks well. Eucharistia.
All of these students will become nurses. This means that they will give themselves to others so that they could bring them back to health, to beauty. If we respond to the suffering of another with our presence, our own suffering gains in dignity, because we become what we are, human beings.
To be a nurse, to work in a field in which you bring people to health, is to be a birthgiver of beauty, and it is moving and humbling to witness it. In fact, to be a nurse, to live life in giving oneself to another, is what it is to be human. It is a fight against loneliness and for living in communion.
Can you imagine what it means for a philosopher to witness a notion incarnated?