Graduate to the World

What does the collapse of the Bangladeshi clothing factory have to do with this graduating class of our “best and brightest”? More than meets the eye. I was stunned to watch the now-arrested owner of the doomed factory in Dhaka declare on camera just hours before the collapse that there was no problem with his building—never mind the large cracks in the walls—the building is safe. In fact on the morning of the collapse, the owner and his associates were commanding hesitant workers, mainly women, to enter the factory and resume their shift work. Minutes later the eight-story block building collapsed in a roaring heap of dust. The death toll now stands at over 400, with another 1300 still missing. Side-stepping the growing furor over western clothing companies that have taken advantage of essentially “slave labor” (as Pope Francis described it), I wonder if this tragedy is a parable of the civilization we live in and the world our graduates now enter. Could it be that the siren voices that increasingly warn us of massive economic cracks in the walls of our societies are going unheeded? And are the efforts of our political leaders to dismiss our growing concerns over this teetering economy as unconscionable as the Bangladeshi factory owner’s assurances? Could it be that we—all of us—live in a disintegrating infrastructure that, barring some sort of miraculous divine intervention, will collapse much sooner than we had thought? Bangladeshi rescue workers report that the pleas for help emanating from the bowels of that concrete heap have weakened into silence. How many survivors are yet trapped in that cement tomb? If only bare hands could dig their way to them, to carry them to safety. What about the hands and the heart of this university’s graduating class? Could it be that you have been tapped by the Nail-scarred One to hurry out into this collapsing civilization in search of survivors? Could it be that irrespective of your degree, your career, your ambitions and life goals, Heaven desperately needs your unique giftedness to connect with a generation that doesn’t even know it is entombed in this doomed earth factory? Maybe that’s why you were born? Oh sure, after the tens of thousands your parents have invested in you, it may seem logical to conclude that your goal now is to “earn it back.” But maybe it’s to “give it back.” To the entrapped, the entombed in both the Third and First World. Too hopeless a cause these lost survivors? Or could it be the only cause with hope that is left? T. S. Eliot: . . . And right action is freedom From past and future also. For most of us, this is the aim Never here to be realized; Who are only undefeated Because we have gone on trying . . . (“The Dry Salvages”) Jesus Christ: “‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it’” (Mark 8:34, 35).