Allow me to make what seems an overblown stretch of a comparison.
After my last day of full-time student teaching at Rehoboth, I went hiking with some teachers to celebrate. After scrabbling up some ancient-Anasazi-style footholds, trekking around a ridge in the clothes we taught in earlier, and taking in some incredible views, our little party came to the hike’s namesake: the crevice.
The crevice is three-four feet across and much deeper. The final part of the “trail” has the hiker wedge their body in twenty feet above the ground, feet on one sandstone wall pushing your back and hands into the other, sliding and scraping to your left. The crevice terminates in a nearly perpendicular stone face; you’re still 20-30 feet above the ground. I watched my three companions slide down with practiced ease (if not grace) to the sand and stone floor below.
After trying a few different strategies, I did as felt safest and least comfortable, wedging my backside into the crevice and sliding down, one foot on each side of the fissure, (feeling a little like Spiderman, but not really), my party shouting encouragement and warning. It went something like this:
“If you fall now, you’re probably dead.” Slide. “Now it’s probably a crippling fall.” Scrape. “Now you’ll probably just break a leg.” Slip. “You’d still probably be able to walk out of here. With some help.” Skid. “You’re good now.” Safe.
For a long time, this is how I felt about Honors Tea: that it was a group of brilliant professors and upper-classmen that gathered to revel in their own brilliance. I couldn’t wait to join them, but any slip up on my way there could be fatal. I couldn’t, by saying something foolish now, forfeit my intellectual appearance and my place with the elite. I chose my contributions, like my footing, carefully.
Now that I’m one of those upperclassmen, I realize how dumb I was being. Tea isn’t about impressing people with your deft word-work or having the right ideas to make your way to the safety of the sand below, whatever that is for you. I’ve been going for four years and, while I’m not sure that I can say “THIS is what Honors Tea is about”, I know it’s not about flaunting academic prowess, mental capabilities or judging those things in others. If it’s about those things for you, I can say with reasonable certainty, you’re doing it wrong. In the past four years, when I’ve done Honors Tea right, it’s been the times after I decided to stop worrying about it. It’s been those times that Tea has been fun, educational, relational, nutritious, hilarious, welcoming, eye-opening, and good. If you happen to be like Andrew-from-a-couple-of-years-ago, stop worrying and go for it. If you jump or fall from this one, it’s not a fatal fall, or even a dangerous one. You’ll probably just land on a couch next to a friend.