I have spent every one of the past 13 summers at a camp in North Jersey. I absolutely love it there, and one of the reasons why is because of all the great games we play. One of my favorite activities is called a Circle Sit. I’d love to give it a try here and now, but I don’t think it would work with all of these heavy gowns, so for the sake of time, and the comfort of my advisers, I’ll just quickly explain how the exercise works. Everybody stands in a tight circle with everyone’s left shoulder turned in. Then, on the count of three, everyone in the circle sits down on the lap of the person behind him/her and, if it all works out according to plan, every person has a place to sit. The activity only survives for a few seconds before everyone topples to the ground, but until then, it’s pretty impressive to see it all work. Everyone is carrying another’s weight, and trusting someone else to carry his/hers. The funny part is, it always seems that you’ve got someone’s weight on your knees long before you are being supported from behind. And then, right when it seems that you are about to topple over, you find your seat and it is all ok.
So why am I referring to this exercise? First and foremost it’s to help you strengthen your portfolio of Ice Breakers, something we should all be striving to do. In all seriousness though, the reason I bring up the circle sit is because when I first began to reflect on Bishop Harris’ career, it reminded me of the lesson learned in the circle sit.
You see, throughout Bishop Harris’ life, she took to the task of supporting others and succeeded in part because she trusted other’s support. She has taken on the challenge of advocating for her religious beliefs in a time when religion seems more to divide than unite. She does this not only through her words, but also through her actions. Not only was she the first female Bishop in the Episcopal Church, an incredible and time consuming feat in and of itself, she always finds time to stay active in community organizations that are dedicated to improving the lives of people. It’s these selfless roles that I find most impressive and inspiring. I’m sure she does not receive a lot of recognition in presiding over the Episcopal City Mission, and I’m quite certain that the job doesn’t pay well. But she still undertakes this task. But what does that have to do with the circle sit?
Well, from all you’ve heard today I’m sure you can agree with me that Bishop Harris has done and is still doing her part in society, and being the remarkable woman that she is, I have no doubt that she is more than happy to continue carrying the rest of us along. But the real power of her work is that it serves as a challenge to all of us. It calls every single one of us to take up the same charge of changing our world, maybe not necessarily through the same means as Bishop Harris, but most definitely aimed at the same ends.
I told you that in a circle sit, you somehow always feel the weight of the person in front before you feel the support from the person behind. Bishop Harris has done her part, lifting up and supporting the societies and communities to which she belongs. Now it’s time to transmit her energy into our service and our lives, so that we can support others as she has done for so many of us. Unlike a circle sit, I know that through the support and commitment of Bishop Harris, and the example she has set for all of us, our community will never topple over. I personally want to thank Bishop Harris for showing us exactly what it means and what it takes to positively influence our surroundings.
So, I’d like to present Bishop Harris with this clock, and instrument that marks the many and long hours of selfless service and lifelong efforts. Hobart College sincerely thanks you for the contributions you have made to your communities and the precedent that you set for ours.
Matthew Lyttle '06
Convocation, September 7, 2004