One Religious Journey, Four Hundred Lives Touched

Caroline Kaplan About a month ago we were all sitting in the theater, letting the various requests wash over us as they do at every gathering. We are constantly getting on stage and asking one another for things, asking for our presence at a sporting event or requesting our attendance at a club meeting. But on that day, something else was asked of us. Ms. Arif stood amidst the ubiquitous soccer and volleyball announcements gathered around her feet and took a deep breath. Then she asked for our forgiveness. The student body would’ve gladly given her what she asked for, if they had only known what she was talking about. Ms. Arif is known not only for her thoughtful and probing questions inside the classroom but also the individual relationships she forms with students outside of the classroom, so it was difficult to tell why she needed our forgiveness. One member of the class of 2014 even went so far as to say, “Ms. Arif got me through freshman year.”  The only thing they could find to forgive her for was that B in Global Cities. When Ms. Arif went on to tell us about her looming religious pilgrimage we all became excited for her, and quickly let her know that if she wanted our forgiveness, then by all means she could have it! Then we forgot about it, and while Ms. Arif was talking with God and figuring out how to become an even better teacher and person, we remained here. The days moved quickly and while her students missed her, about three weeks later she was back in the theatre. This time she didn’t just have 30 seconds. Ms. Arif’s presentation wasn’t just informative or educational (although it managed to be both of those things through beautiful images and well-spoken descriptions of the actual journey). It was more than that. Ms. Arif struggled when deciding whether or not to share all of her journey with the student body. After all, although we may be accepting, religion can be a polarizing issue anywhere. “The more and more I thought about it,” she admitted during her presentation, “the more I began to think: ‘how can I talk about this experience and not talk about the spirituality of it?’ I felt like it just wouldn’t be honest.” We were transfixed when Arif began to speak about her own spiritual journey, her relationship with God, and most importantly, love. We couldn’t take our eyes off of her because we recognized how fearless she was. She was doing something that all of us struggle to do when we are alone, and she wasn’t just being honest with herself; she was unwaveringly honest in front of hundreds of people. She was doing good on a level that none of us had even thought was possible. Not just fulfilling community service hours, or being nice to our parents, or going to church. She was attempting to live a life wholly devote to something greater. The fact that the presentation happened at all, combined with the overwhelming student body and teacher support, is the reason Latin continues to be the place we love.]]>