I got a really nice letter in the mail at work today. Now usually the mail that comes to me at the office is sales material for trainings or seminars, or entirely boring client material that we need to put in a database or pass on to someone in accounting. But today I got a legitimate piece of mail addressed to me and for me. I love mail.
It was a lovely thank you note from the UMKC student that spent all day Friday shadowing me at my job. The local nonprofit membership organization in town hosts a Nonprofit Shadow Day, where undergrad students from all over the Midwest, who are interested in working in nonprofit careers, are given the opportunity to meet with professionals that already have established careers in the nonprofit sector and spend the day shadowing them at their offices. And I'm fairly established I guess, some days. So last year, and again this year, I offered to be a host. My student this year was an excellent match. We really hit it off and I think he will go on to do great things in government or the nonprofit arena, which ever he decides to pursue. But last year, oh last year's student. How could I forget last year?
First off, last year my student was actually a little older than me. Not a problem at all, but not exactly what I pictured when I signed up as a host. Secondly, he was a film student, studying to become a documentary filmmaker. Certainly a fascinating career choice, I love documentaries, but here's where things started to get a little goofy. When I initially asked him, via email, what parts of my job he had interest in, so that I could tailor our day around those areas, all he said was grant writing. Ok, not exactly the easiest thing to show someone how to do, how interesting is it to watch someone else write? But if that was his interest, then that's what we would focus on. But when we met at the panel discussion and breakfast on the day of the event, the first thing he said to me was that he had signed up for Shadow Day for a class, and he just had to write a two page paper about the day and that was his goal for the day. Oh, and he had no interest in working or volunteering for a nonprofit. Ok. I found that a little frustrating. Why sign up for it if it doesn't interest you at all? I asked him if there were other options with his class and he said yes, but this one was the easiest. So now I was kind of irritated with the teacher for pushing uninterested students into the spaces that could have been filled by students with a legitimate interest. This is all petty and minor. But having set aside a chunk of my day to help develop future nonprofit leaders (blah blah lofty goals,) and then getting saddled with Mr. Art Film instead, was kind of disappointing. But it gets better.
In getting to know each other, we chatted about how he found himself enrolled as an undergrad in his thirties, how he had spent his time right after high school traveling around the United States as a backup dancer for a famous Christian musician. And then he casually started telling me the story of becoming friends with one former Eight is Enough star turned evangelical superhero, now turned sad, bankrupt financial planner in Kansas City. He said, "Willie was really a great mentor." Yes, the Willie Aames. My student starred in movies with Bible Man. In fact, he was Bible Man's nemesis. The aptly named Luxor Spawndroth, aka Shadow of Doubt, aka Dr. Fear. A real live celebrity, at least in some circles. Dude even had an action figure.
I was wholly unfamiliar with the Bible Man franchise, but believe me, when I went home that night I did some research. A Google search gave me full access to several You Tube clips, some lovely reviews, and a quick browse of Wikipedia opened my eyes to the many many episodes of Bible Man that exist in the world. How nice. But what I saw was both fascinating and disturbing. While I thought my student seemed very nice, I was kind of horrified by the anti-semitism, anti-education, and anti-popular culture messages in these movies. And the awful production values, oh dear Lord, awful. Oh and did I mention that some of these movies are really musicals, with dancing? And spandex?
Now, I'm not a particularly religious person. I was raised Methodist, which is about the most mellow, easy going of the Protestant denominations. I don't attend church currently. I go at Christmas with my family, but then it's mostly a cultural tradition, not so much a religious event for me. But I respect the religious beliefs of other people. I admire my friends and family who have a strong faith, but don't try to pressure or sway my opinions or beliefs. So these movies certainly aren't aimed at me, but what really bothers me is the hate that comes out in these movies. So much hate, from a Christian super hero. I can't imagine using these movies to teach my children anything. except maybe how to think for themselves and the danger of adult men in blue spandex. And Bible Man kills people. Did I mention this? This Christian superhero carries a sword and kills people, for some pretty stupid reasons. These movies offend me and bother me. Plus their mind-numbingly stupid, poorly written and poorly acted scripts are offensive to me as a writer. Just bad. Bad enough that I dream one day of creating a drinking game to play while watching Bible Man with my friends. "Drink every time someone of another religion is mocked, killed or ridiculed." "Drink every time Bible Man pulls out his Spirit Sword." "Drink every time a child is saved from the evils of computers or video games." "Drink every time someone gets killed for talking about mental illness." But back to shadow day.
With the end of Willie Aames' tenure as Bible Man, my student needed to find a new career path, away from the bright lights of evangelical message driven B-movie action masterpieces. And so finishing his degree was his choice. He was a very nice guy. We just had nothing in common and some very different opinions on some pretty key issues. And other than a love of documentaries, though I think our tastes were quite different, not much to talk about all day. I talked him through the grant writing process. He showed me one of his documentary shorts, it was pretty good. We had Thai for lunch, another thing we had in common I suppose, and then I sent him on his way. I'm not sure what he wrote in his paper, maybe he talked about how revealing your previous life as Bible Man's nemesis is a great way to startle and entertain snotty, lefty liberal, non-religious grant writers. And he would be correct. Can I shadow Bible Man next time?