The Thing of Highest Value
Student Stories

The Thing of Highest Value

Sage Haynes

March 11, 2023

I'm glad I brought my hoodie because I was tense under the movement of the wind blowing on me more often than not. I choose a resting place at the base of a grand and twisted oak tree at the bottom of a valley peeking up at enormous mountains. My back nestles at the perfect angle against its trunk. It's a tree hug to a tree hugger. Classmates mill about in my periphery. Most choose to sit in the warm sun for the last reading in Economics as we visit a graveyard to reflect. I read the paper with great pleasure. Economics is the final module of the core curriculum and I divert my thoughts for a moment, putting myself in the shoes of previous cohorts to intensify the legacy triumph of following others in reaching this stage. I greatly respect the intention of the order of the core curriculum because the dots I’ve connected had been reliant on building blocks laid earlier in the year. The satisfaction of being able to see how every thought, assumption and belief I hold is connected to every other aspect of life, deepens my love for Excel’s value of holistic education. Before I started in this program, I suspected that education was more than just head knowledge, and surely more than isolated subjects, but I didn't truly understand until now.

With my hood up and bare feet in the sunshine, I finish the reading concerning an author’s pondering on things of true value. My cheeks are wet before I even realize I am crying. A pebble-toss away stands a worn headstone recording the beginning and end of someone’s life; someone I will never know. Adjacent stands the stone of a beloved spouse. This idea resonated and bounced around inside me: the thing of highest value is relationship. The exchange of intimacy is threaded into the essence of our very being. We are designed to draw from a source in an exercise of relation to another. Without relating to anyone we are the living dead isolated, stagnant and unmoving.

I have laid bare my own fallacy concerning relationship. Before this moment I had prioritized the space and time needed for the fruition of my own creations. This instant realization about the basic need of human nature exposes my value system. I have truly been “married” to my own work. Significant others have only been allowed access to a limited and distant version of myself or categorized as obstacles to avoid on the path to a successful life. A life plan made meaningless in the light of truth. I staked my life on my relationship with God, but it never extended to my relationship with humans. I immediately revolt against my old, death-bringing way of thought. How could I have possibly pridefully paraded around my dedication to collaboration when the value of “people” ranked so low in my mind? The discovery is equal heartbreaking relief and uplifting logic.

Then something surprising takes place. For the last decade I have declared that I didn't want children. I thought it a sign of adulthood and heroic passion to want to change the world through storytelling instead of being a mother. I had nurtured a deep fear that children would trap me on a path divergent from my plan. I usually thrive on possibilities and dreams, not fearful commitments, so I must have somewhere subconsciously recognized this decision as stubborn poison to my soul. This hardened stone was plucked from my chest, leaving an empty space. And before I had even processed the chamber, a sense of peaceful, overwhelming joy landed as I looked up to see a little girl running into my arms.

I am overcome by the beauty of all of creation in a single day at this graveyard, surrounded by my now treasured classmates. I am measuring the full weight of my existence as a beloved creation of God. Grasping this movement of relationship throws chaos at my priorities yet settles my soul. The day the mountains sang silently, and the wind pushed me to a different heartbeat was an end to a costly way of thinking, one that bent me towards death, and a beginning to a value on my own nature of need for relation in which I am seeing everywhere, in everything, and all at once. It was a vague recognizable Truth that I’d never embraced and grasped for my own. But God massages the stubborn, tense knots out of my soul and as I sit hugged by the oak tree, the movement of His Spirit is blowing on me more often than not.

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