The Embrace of the Father

This is a tweaked version of a sermon that I gave on Sunday, June 12th, 2016, at the Church of the Shepherd in Hyde Park, Chicago. The sermon was based on the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15.

Good morning, everyone. My name is Joel Kim. I was a law student at the University of Chicago, but as of yesterday, I have graduated! That said, please don’t ask me for legal advice after the service. I still have to pass the bar exam and get licensed.

The story of the Prodigal Son is a familiar one for all of us. Even those of us that did not grow up in a Christian household have undoubtedly heard this story before. This is one of Jesus’s most beloved stories, and rightly so. But I invite us to consider this story closely, for it is truly remarkable and bewildering. For it is when this story becomes familiar and ceases to amaze us that we need to hear it again.

To understand Jesus’s story, we need to know his audience. Luke 15 starts with these words: “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!’”

The tax collectors came to hear Jesus. These were the corrupt agents of the occupying Roman government. These men assessed taxes on their fellow Hebrews, and often fraudulently collected extra money to keep for themselves. They were universally despised.

And the sinners! These were people whose moral failings were so visible that they were publicly identifiable. These were not good and upright people.

Yet here was Jesus, this supposed great religious teacher, who allowed these people to come to Him. And even worse, He ate with them. To eat with another was a sign of acceptance and approval. This is what upset the Pharisees and the scribes. The Pharisees and the teachers were people who took religion very seriously, who took great steps to obey God. Faith was very important to them. The Pharisees and teachers would have said “if you eat with these people, you give people the wrong idea about God.”

So Jesus shares this story. There was a man who had two sons. The younger son said to his father “Father, give me my share of the estate.” Now this was a scandalous request. What the son wanted was his inheritance, and he wanted it now. What the son was telling his father was “Dad, I wish you were dead. I don’t want you, I just want your stuff. You’re in the way of what I want.” My parents are here, and if I made this request, they would have rebuked me severely, and rightly so.

But instead of reprimanding his son, the father grants his request. He divides his estate among his sons. The word Jesus used was his livelihood, or his life. At the time, most wealth was kept in land, that was passed down through generations. So the father was giving to his son the work of generations of the family. The son’s request would have been a source of deep shame for the family. The village would talk of little else.

Then the younger son departs for a distant country. Imagine him leaving home, telling all his friends how he will come back an amazing success. Perhaps he would quote the poet, “There’s a million things I haven’t done. But just you wait, just you wait…” He goes off in search of his own happiness. But unsurprisingly, he comes to disaster. He wastes everything that he has, everything that his family worked for. He becomes so desperate that he works feeding pigs. For a Hebrew, to whom pigs were unclean, this was a deeply shameful act. He is envious even of the pigs, and longs to eat the pods that he feeds them. Perhaps we don’t get the same feeling of revulsion regarding pigs and carob pods. So imagine that you are working in a rat farm, teeming rodents crawling underfoot, while you feed them live cockroaches. And you’re so hungry, you’re tempted to eat the roaches.

But the son comes to his senses. He wants to return home. But how could he possibly return, after what he had done to his father? He prepares a speech, to convince his father to take him as a servant, and sets out.

And then follows one of the most beautiful lines ever written: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

Note that the father ran and embraced the son, even before the son had said a single word, before the son’s intentions were known. The father was overjoyed to see his son, and his son’s physical condition was enough for the father.

And the father ran. Patriarchs of that time, in long robes, did not run. In order to run he would need to hike up his robes and expose his legs. Such a sight would have been embarrassing. The shame that the son anticipated in walking through the village, the father took on himself.

The son begins his prepared speech. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But before the son can say another word, the father calls to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him.” The best robe would have been the father’s robe. And the son still reeks of the pigs! “Put a ring on his finger.” The ring was a sign of authority in the family. “Bring sandals for his feet.” The son had worn himself out. The son said that he was no longer worthy to be called a son. But the father said “You don’t get to decide that you are unworthy. I say that you are worthy. I say that you are still my child.”

And to top it all off, the father calls for the fattened calf! This was a rare delicacy. The fattened calf would have been killed only for celebrations for the whole village. The father was restoring his son not just to his family, but to the whole community.

By this point, half of Jesus’s audience would have been weeping. To think that God loved them as this father loved! To think that God accepted them, even when no one else would! But the other half would have been furious. “This is exactly what we’re talking about! There have to be consequences. If you just accept people like this, they will take advantage of it. What about holiness? What about righteousness?”

Some of the Pharisees may even have accused Jesus of hypocrisy. Earlier, in Luke 14:27, Jesus says “Whoever does not carry their cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple.” The Pharisees would have said “Where is the younger son’s cross? Where is his dying to self?” Perhaps you have heard this kind of message. Perhaps you’ve preached this kind of message.

But anyone who hears this story and hears a license for sin has never really heard it. For how could the younger son not be transformed by his father’s embrace? How could we not be transformed by the Father’s embrace? For no matter how much we mature and grow, we never leave that embrace. And that embrace is the fuel for our discipleship. For everything in the Christian life: our prayer, our worship, our acts of service, are simply just us learning to return that embrace.

For this is the promise. No matter what you have done. No matter what other people have said to you. No matter what you have said to yourself. God embraces you as His child, and is calling you to Him.

But this is a story of two sons. The older son is out working in the field. He doesn’t even know that his brother is home until he hears the party. When he finds out, he is livid.

So the father leaves the party. He traveled down one road after one lost son, and now he travels another road for another lost son. Imagine the father pleading with his son to come inside. What would the neighbors think?

The older son says “Look.” You know that if your child starts with “Look,” you’re about to hear it. If I said “Look” to my parents, they would shut that down real quick. But the son says “All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours (not “my brother”) who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”

These are not the words of a son. These are the words of a slave. Although the older son has never left home, his heart is distant from his father’s. Both of these sons were lost. One was lost outside the home, the other was lost inside. It’s just as possible to be lost sitting in a church as in a brothel, or a corporate office. And the older son may be even more lost, because he doesn’t know how lost he is.

The older son wasn’t just envious of his brother. Remember that the father had divided his assets amongst the sons. Per the tradition of that time, the older son got two thirds, and the younger son got one third. That meant that everything in the family now belonged to the older son. So when the younger son comes home and eats the family’s food and drinks the family’s wine, he is consuming what belongs to the older son. In a real way, the older son is diminished by his brother’s return.

But just as with the younger son, the father invites the older son in. In fact, his first word is “Son.” The father reminds the older son of his sonship, that he is not a slave. He reminds the older son of the return of the younger son, of “this brother of yours.” Jesus declares that the older brothers in his audience, the Pharisees and teachers, those who did everything right; they too are welcome as children of God. Not because of their earnest devotion or hard work, but simply because God calls them as His children. But to accept this truth, they also need to accept that God will embrace those that they think don’t deserve it. Notice that we don’t know if the older son enters in. His story is a warning to the Pharisees and teachers.

The story of the older son reminds us that relationship with God is given, not earned. Too often we measure our relationship with God by what we do. We look at how much time we spend in prayer or how much we read our Bibles and evaluate our spirituality by our practices. And these practices are important. But let us not believe that God’s love for us depends on how much we do these things. These practices are just us learning to embrace back.

But the story of the older son is difficult. There is a band named Poor Rich Folk whose music I enjoy, although the band is currently dormant. They have a song called “Teach Me to Love.” The first line is “Is it true that you love porn stars, the same that you love pastors? Do you love the deadbeat fathers like you love their blameless bastards? If that’s true, then I need you to show me a thing or two. I need you to teach me to love.” The song continues: “Do you really love the prostitute like you love the faithful preacher? Do you love the racist and the rapist like the Sunday school teacher? Do you really love the pedophile like you love the victim child? If that’s true, then I need you to show me a thing or two. I need you to teach me to love.”

God’s love is beautiful because it is wide and vast and expansive. But this wide, vast, and expansive love forces us to disarm, to see the humanity, the Imago Dei, the child of God in each other. And love isn’t squishy wimpy acquiescence. Jesus did not accept everything that the tax collectors and sinners did. But he loved them, and it was from this love that he called them to repentance, to a turning away and turning toward. But this is hard.

The tax collectors and sinners approached Jesus to hear Him. They wanted to hear what He had to say. But these same people today would not step foot into a church building. They associate churches with judgment and condemnation. If the same people that came to listen to Jesus don’t want anything to do with our churches, then are our churches preaching the same message that Jesus preached?

So how can you know that God loves you like this? And how can you love others in this way? The older son in this story lashed out because he was being diminished by his brother’s return. But we also have an older brother. And unlike this older brother Jesus gave not just some of his life but all of it, not unwillingly but graciously. He left the embrace of His father, so that we could be welcomed in. And the writer of Hebrews says that Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters. And as His spirit moves within us, we can extend this wide, vast, expansive love to others. To see them transformed.

This story is often called the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Prodigal means excessive, wasteful, lavish. So perhaps this story should instead be the Parable of the Prodigal Father. The father whose love is vast, wide, and expansive.

The Catholic writer Henri Nouwen was so moved by this story that he wrote his own meditation. Now I have not read much of Nouwen’s work, although I enjoy his writings from time to time. You could say that I read his work Nouwen then. In The Return of the Prodigal Son, Nouwen writes this:

“Perhaps the most radical statement Jesus ever made is: ‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.’ God’s compassion is described by Jesus not simply to show me how willing God is to feel for me, or to forgive my sins and offer me new life and happiness, but to invite me to become like God and to show the same compassion to others as he is showing me…What I am called to make true is that whether I am the younger or the elder son, I am the son of my compassionate Father. I am an heir. No one says it more clearly than Paul when he writes: “The Spirit himself joins with our spirit to bear witness that we are children of God. And if we are children, then we are heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, provided that we share his sufferings, so as to share his glory.’ Indeed, as son and heir I am to become successor. I am destined to step into my Father’s place and offer to others the same compassion that he has offered me. The return to the Father is ultimately the challenge to become the Father.”

I want to end with a piece by Jon Acuff. Jon Acuff wrote the book Stuff Christians Like, which is a hilarious poke at Christian culture, like side hugs and not knowing which meals to pray for. For example, if you stand up while you’re eating, you don’t need to pray. But he also wrote this.

I don’t want to brag, but I’m pretty awesome at applying band-aids. And make no mistake, that is an art. Because if you go too quickly and unpeel them the wrong way, they stick to themselves and you end up with a wadded up useless mess, instead of the Little Mermaid festooned bandage your daughter so desperately wants to apply to a boo boo that may in fact be 100% fictional.

Half of the injuries I treat at the Acuff house are invisible or simply wounds of sympathy. My oldest daughter will scrape her knee, and my younger daugther, realizing the band aid box is open will say, “Yo dad, I’d like to get in on that too. What do you say we put one on, I don’t know, my ankle. Yeah, my ankle, let’s pretend that’s hurt.”

But sometimes the cuts are real, like the day a few years ago when my then 5-year old got a scrape on her face playing in the front yard. I rushed in the house and returned with a princess bandage. As I bent down to apply it to her forehead, her eyes filled up with tears and she shrunk back from me.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I don’t want to wear that band-aid.” She replied.

“Why? You have a cut. You need a band-aid.” I said.

“I’ll look silly,” she answered.

Other than her sister and her mom, there was no one else in the yard. None of her friends were over, cars were not streaming by our house and watching us play, the world was pretty empty at that moment. But, for the first time I can remember, she felt shame. She had discovered shame. Somewhere, somehow, this little 5-year-old had learned to be afraid of looking silly. If I was smarter, if I had been better prepared for the transition from little toddler to little girl, I might have asked her this:

“Who told you that you were silly?”

I didn’t, though. That question didn’t bloom in my head until much later, and I didn’t understand it until I saw God ask a similar question in Genesis 3:11. To me, this is one of the saddest and most profoundly beautiful verses in the entire Bible. Adam and Eve have fallen. The apple is a core. The snake has spoken. The dream appears crushed. As they hide from God under clothes they’ve hastily sewn together, He appears and asks them a simple question:

“Who told you that you were naked?”

There is hurt in God’s voice as He asks this question, but there is also a deep sadness, the sense of a father holding a daughter that has for the first time ever, wrapped herself in shame.

Who told you that you were not enough?

Who told you that I didn’t love you?

Who told you that there was something outside of me you needed?

Who told you that you were ugly?

Who told you that your dream was foolish?

Who told you that you would never have a child?

Who told you that you would never be a father?

Who told you that you weren’t a good mother?

Who told you that without a job you aren’t worth anything?

Who told you that you’ll never know love again?

Who told you that this was all there is?

Who told you that you were naked?

I don’t know when you discovered shame. I don’t know when you discovered that there were people who might think you are silly or dumb or not a good writer or a husband or a friend. I don’t know what lies you’ve been told by other people or maybe even by yourself.

But in response to what you are hearing from everyone else, God is still asking the question, “Who told you that you were naked?”

And He’s still asking us that question because we are not.

In Christ, we are not worthless.

In Christ, we are not hopeless.

In Christ, we are not dumb or ugly or forgotten.

In Christ, we are not naked.

Isaiah 61:10 says:

“For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.”

The world may try to tell you a thousand different things today. You might close this post and hear a million declarations of who you are or who you’ll always be, but know this:

As unbelievable as it sounds, and as much as I never expected to type this sentence on this blog:

You are not naked.

I don’t know what sorts of things you have heard about yourself. I don’t know what sorts of things you have said to yourself. Maybe that you’re not smart enough, or attractive enough, or competent enough, or successful enough. But know this. God embraces us as His children. Let us choose to see ourselves with His vision.

My thoughts on Jesse Williams’s BET speech

Here is my reflection on Jesse Williams’s BET speech. I’ll start by noting that I spent a good chunk of the day on bar exam study, so I’m pretty worn out. I’ll do my best to lay out my thoughts clearly.

Let me preface by saying that I am not personally involved in the Black Lives Matter movement or am a part of the African-American community. Therefore, I recognize that I have much to learn before I can speak to the specific issues that Williams brings up. I want to address a broader question about trust.

As I mentioned before, these lines in particular struck me:

“The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job, alright – stop with all that. If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest, if you have no interest in equal rights for black people then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.”

I believe that Williams is speaking to criticisms of the Black Lives Matter movement. Some of the criticisms that I have heard is that Black Lives Matter raises a stink about black people killed by the police, but not about black people killed by other black people, or that Black Lives Matter approves of violence and rioting. Many of these criticisms (though not all) come from people who are not African Americans and have not previously expressed much concern for the specific grievances of that community.

The speech got me thinking: What if this were about my immediate community?

Imagine that someone shows up on national television to decry problems in the Korean-American community. Imagine that this person is presented as someone informed and knowledgable, which is why they are on national television. Let’s say that the person is white, although they could easily be of another race. Imagine this person saying “the problem with the Korean-American community is that they are too focused on material gain, that they are patriarchal and hierarchical, and that they idolize safety over risk-taking and innovation.”

I would want to ask the speaker if they have spent time in the Korean-American community. Have they been to our homes, our businesses, our community centers? Do they know about our history, both in this country and in Korea? Are they concerned about the problems facing Korean-Americans?

Because if they tell me that they haven’t been involved, that they haven’t sat with our families and heard our stories and shared our worries, then I would really wonder if they genuinely care about us. If they are speaking with authority about something that they don’t know anything about, I would wonder if they are more concerned about being an authority than actually helping my community.

Let’s try a different approach. Let’s say someone shows up on national television and says “The problem with Christians is that they are bigoted, they are judgmental, and they are stupid!”

I would ask this person if they have gone to visit many churches. Have they talked to Christians from a variety of denominations, socioeconomic status, and backgrounds? Do they know why Christians believe what they believe, why they hold certain values closely? In short, is their opinion informed?

Because if they have never set foot in a church, and don’t know anything about Christianity, then I would think that they are more interested in having a strong opinion than having an informed one.

That’s not to say that an outside perspective can’t be helpful. As someone who is in the Korean-American community and the Christian community, I have blind spots. There are problems within my circles that I can’t see, and I value hearing from people with different perspectives. In fact, the above critiques may well have a ring of truth. But if the speaker hasn’t taken the time to know my community and see the problems that we face, then it’s hard for me to trust that this person has my community’s best interests at heart.

Because if this were my community, and I saw my people band together to address significant challenges that have plagued us for a long time, and then saw people—people who do not know us and have never before expressed concern for us—try to tell us how to solve our problems, I would find it difficult to listen. And in fact, if the critics were a part of a system that has profited people who look like them at the expense of people who look like me (even if the critics did not play an active role in that system), then it would be difficult for me to believe that they truly had my best interests at heart. I would find it hard to trust them.

Migrating to another platform

Hi all,

I’m migrating over from Blogger to another platform.

When I first started writing regularly in 2013, I put my thoughts up on Facebook. Facebook has a huge reach, but there’s no easy way to catalog posts. I started this Blogger account to have a repository for my Facebook posts.

But now, I’d like to up my blogging game. Blogger has been OK, but I’m not really happy with how the blog looks. I’m sure I could put in a lot of effort to make it look nicer, but I’d rather focus on writing. I’m going to give Ghost a try and see how things go.

You can find the new blog over at joelshinkim.com, although I won’t be deleting this Blogger account. Maybe I’ll come back in the future.

Edit: I decided to give up the Ghost and go with WordPress. The link will take you to my WordPress site.

Getting to know my classmates

To my law school classmates,

Now that law school is over, I’m looking forward to getting to know you.

To be sure, I’ve gotten to know a bit about you. I’ve heard about your hometowns and your undergrad schools. I’ve heard about what you’ve done before law school. I’ve even heard about some of your hobbies, like the conversations I had with Samuel Jahangir about comic books or with Haley Barton about soccer.

But most of our conversations these past three years have been about school. How many pages did you write for your memo? What classes are you taking this quarter? How many finals do you have? Stress, stress, stress.

It makes sense. These were three challenging years. We got through a lot. And we helped each other through it.

Law school is what brought us together. And law school is what we talked about. But it’ll be nice to talk about other things. And we’ll all be doing such amazing things, there’ll be plenty to talk about the next time that we meet. To hear about the interesting cases you’re working on, or the research that you’re doing, or all the people that you’ve met and the places that you’ve gone and the thoughts you’ve thought.

So I guess what I mean is that while I’ll miss you, I’m looking forward to getting to know the real world you, not just the law school you.

We did it!

Congrats, Class of 2016!

Yesterday, the school had a get together for all the graduating students and their families. I was meeting Krista Perry‘s family and telling them about my future plans to help people get housing. Krista’s sister Katie said “Wow, all the people that I’ve met here are so impressive and doing such amazing things.”
Earlier that day, I had lunch with Barry Alberts, my legal ethics teacher. He graduated from the law school in 1971. Just this past April, he had his 45th law school reunion. He said that it was such a joy to see all the amazing things that his classmates have done in the practice of law, academia, politics, and other areas.
So congrats, class of 2016. You’re an impressive bunch, who have done amazing things, and will go on to do amazing things. Kudos.
Oh, and, uh, speaking of legal ethics, please don’t do anything unethical. Not that you need me to tell you, but still.
Congratulations!

A Cautionary Tale

Let me share what happened last night, so you will not make the same mistake I did.

I was washing the dishes last night. I have this neat Ninja blender that David and Meg Suell left for me. It has a set of removable blades, which are attached to a plastic shaft that attaches to the motor. I was also washing a plastic measuring cup. I put the blade in the cup and started washing the bowls.

When I returned to the blade in the cup, I discovered that the blades had lodged inside the cup. The more I tried to pull the blades out, the more they got embedded in the cup.

Eventually, I took a lighter and melted the outside of the plastic measuring cup, until I could break the cup and free the blades. I threw the measuring cup away.

So don’t do what I just did.

Another note on the Stanford case: Compassion

Another note regarding the Stanford case:

Some of my friends have pointed out that part of the outcry against the lenient sentence is because of how the case fits into the greater justice system. As one friend put it, “For me it’s not a problem that the judge exercised compassion for the perpetrator; the problem is that the same compassion is not extended to people who aren’t talented white men.”

For Brock Turner, his race and class status may not have caused his light sentence. I doubt that Judge Persky was intentionally weighing these factors in his mind. Maybe if Turner was black and poor, he would have received the same sentence. Who knows. But we cannot deny that a pattern emerges across the entire criminal justice system. The criminal justice system treats you better if you’re guilty, white, and rich, than if you’re innocent, poor, and black.

Judge Persky looked at the humanity of Brock Turner. He saw a young man who did not belong in prison. I hope and pray that we become a society that extends that same compassion to all.

Regarding the Stanford rape case

Regarding the Stanford rape case: First, if you haven’t read the victim’s moving and powerful statement, please do so. We would all do well to reflect on her words. What happened to her is absolutely horrible, and I am inspired by her strength in composing this letter and reading it in court.


The case has received considerable attention not just because of the victim’s statement, but also because of the light sentence given to Brock Turner, the perpetrator. He received six months in county jail and probation, along with registering as a lifetime sex offender. There has been a great outcry in response, and a petition to recall Judge Aaron Persky over the ruling.


But I would like to hear people’s responses to this article from a public defender in the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office. Sajid Khan defends the sentence of six months jail and probation as appropriate.


One consequence of the heavy media attention to this case is that more people are talking about sexual assault, which is important. But I am concerned that popular outrage to recall the judge may be misguided. It’s noteworthy that both Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen and Santa Clara County public defenders Gary Goodman and Molly O’Neal both believe that Judge Persky should not be recalled.



Lastly, there is the question of whether popular control of judges in the form of recalls or judicial elections may actually have a negative effect on judicial independence. Judges may be less willing to exercise discretion, even if the circumstances warrant a more lenient sentence, because of concern of popular backlash.


In the end, it’s unlikely that Judge Persky will be recalled, as the process for a recall is incredibly complex. But I hope that people will continue to engage with issues of sexual assault. Regardless of what happens in this case, we all need to take steps to stop sexual assault, both on our college campuses and in our communities.

My experience with counseling

A couple weeks ago, I went to see a counselor with the Student Counseling Service.

At the time, I was experiencing some distress. Some of that had to do with the physical pain I was feeling in my shoulders and wrists. But I also had some issues that I wanted to work through. I figured that since I was paying for the SCS through my Student Life Fee, I should make use of the service.

Now, some folks may be surprised that I was experiencing distress. They may say that I always seem positive and upbeat. And while that may be true, I certainly have my share of self-destructive thoughts. These thoughts tend to focus on my relationships with peers. For example, I used to believe that conversation with me was wasted time, since I have nothing of interest to offer; people would be better off doing anything else than talking to me. In fact, it was selfish for me to try to connect with others, as I was draining them of their precious time. The fact that this mindset meant that I would always feel lonely didn’t matter, since my feelings didn’t matter.

Fortunately, I don’t believe this about myself anymore, and I know that it’s just not true. But old habits die hard, and in the stress of law school, it’s easy to slip into a pit of painful thoughts.

And while I have friends and community both here in Chicago and elsewhere, it’s nice to have a neutral expert observer who will simply listen. That said, I know that I was hesitant to reach out to friends. I believed that my mental health was not worth other people’s time. But that’s wrong! In the future, when I feel distress, I want to be quicker to reach out to the people that I know care about me.

So how did the talk with the counselor go? He was very encouraging and thoughtful. He helped me think through certain issues to explore further. He also reminded me that law school is a stressful time, and that many law students use the counseling service.

Now, I feel much better. It helps that my physical pain is pretty much gone (I heartily recommend the physical therapists with Athletico).

So if you’re feeling distressed and would like additional support besides friends and family, think about seeing a counselor. We all go through bumps and difficulties, and it’s helpful to get some outside perspective.

Lessons from social work: self-care

Last fall, I took a class at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, our university’s social work school. I was in a class of about 30 people. Besides myself and three Divinity School students, everyone else was a social work student.

The class was titled “Dying, Death and Loss.” The class was taught by a former hospice social worker. We focused on how to help individuals who are going through the dying process. Although we talked about bereavement and caring for those in grief, our primary focus was on how to care for the dying individual.

When I told people that I was taking a class on death, many responded by saying “wow, that sounds depressing.” But honestly, I didn’t feel that way. Once we acknowledge that death will happen and that it is sad, we can learn how to care for people. Sometimes, when someone is going through hard times, they don’t need the problem fixed or their emotions changed. They just need someone to sit with them for a while.

One thing I found noteworthy about the class was the focus on self-care. We had an entire session on how social workers need to take care of themselves. We talked about secondary trauma, in which a caregiver may experience emotional duress while listening to the trauma of someone else. We talked about how to avoid being burnt out. I wish lawyers talked about self-care more often.

On another note, when I told Amy, my instructor, that I was a law student, she said “Do you know Lior Strahilevitz?” Professor Strahilevitz is one of my favorite professors. It turns out that his wife, Joanna, was the medical director at the hospice where Amy used to work. I later brought this up with Professor Strahilevitz, and he said that having a wife who does hospice care has helped him feel more comfortable talking about death (my classmates in his 1L property class can attest to that). He also said “I tell people that my wife is a terrible doctor, because all her patients die.”

Also, I’m pretty sure that my anonymous crush was in that class, although I have no idea who it could be.