A familiar thought shared by students at Penn is how rarely we acknowledge one another on Locust Walk. “Hey, [insert name] (but don’t if you’re not too sure), how have you been?” as we rush our overworked selves to a more demanding, perhaps promising appointment. We all feel the need to head somewhere. We’re told that the culmination of our four years should prepare us to answer: Where is your destination and what is your plan? Neither of those questions demands us to consider the other faces on Locust Walk. Can we find community in a culture that glorifies the individual? Should we even bother searching for a model of community? If so, what would that community look like?
The Penn Christian journal is re-launching under the name Locust Walk, falling into step with the brick-paved path that takes students through three communal points – a compass, a bridge, and a covenant. Locust Walk longs to see each individual journey directed outwards – for each step and foot placed forward to be made alongside a meaningful commitment to conversation and community.
Stand in the middle of the Compass and you will need to choose a direction – north, south, east, or west. Every decision we make takes place at such an intersection. Locust Walk wants to be part of the conversations leading up to these decisions. Each month, we will be publishing a feature article on topics of faith, vocation and purpose, and considering the ways they influence our studies in business, humanities, health, science, and mathematics. The questions that are posed and the perspectives explored may challenge your mind’s reasoning of truth, renew your heart’s longing for purpose, or possibly reveal a freedom that can come from surrendering your control over the original decision.
Walk west and eventually you will find yourself at the foot of a bridge. As questions are asked and stories begin to unfold, Locust Walk commits to listening and engaging with those making their way across. To illustrate the ongoing conversation, each week, Locust Walk will also be collecting response pieces, ranging from essays to poems to works of art, that build on the monthly feature article. We wish to recognize the differences alongside a campus that boasts of its diversity, but we are aware of friendships that come alive in those moments of “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”1 The shared experiences of suffering, service, and compassion beneath a prevailing culture of excellence remind us of a common ground to build bridges on.
Follow some more bricks until you reach a covenant – a towering red steel composition solidifying the promises we make with one another. We, at Locust Walk, are a group of Christians who find hope in the covenant of Jesus Christ, that through His crucifixion and resurrection, humans are promised a relationship of grace, mercy, and unconditional love with God. We believe that just as Christ laid himself down for us on the cross, we too are called to lay down our preferences and comforts, and radically listen to and love others. In this way, Locust Walk now seeks to write out its own covenant with Penn – to ask questions with humility and to hold discussions that allow for vulnerability. This journal is eager to see people of different identities make room for one another, share in one another’s lives, and form authentic relationships.
Wherever you are, Locust Walk invites you to genuinely search for the other faces as we ask ourselves and one another the questions: Where is your destination? And now, what is your plan? Many of us do not have answers to those questions right now; we feel unprepared or unwilling. Some of us believe more pressing questions need to be asked. Let us choose first to listen to one another’s stories and explore their intersections with a certainty that our individuality can and will be preserved. We, then, ask you to join us in a pursuit of diversity that goes beyond a mere dilution of our differences and explores a deeper truth that realizes diversity through unity.
1. Lewis, C.S. "The Four Loves." In The Beloved Works of C.S. Lewis. New York: Institutional Press, 1960.
Esther Jou is a rising junior in the College of Arts of Sciences studying Health and Societies. You can usually find her on Locust Walk looking to ask the next best question while wondering about the bigger picture.