This week, serendipity has given me a greater sense of community. On Wednesday afternoon, my colleague pointed up at the sky in awe. A halo encircled the sun in a dazzling display by Mother Nature. I found myself wanting to summon all of the students working fevershly on their laptops outside to step away from their end-of-the-semester preparation and look up at the sky. Instead, we left to eat our lunch only to return to find a small gathering of USF staff snapping photos and pointing — it was still there! We all started talking about what we saw in the sky. Was it a rainbow? Was it made of tiny crystals surrounding the sun? Did it mean a storm was brewing? Our little group seemed to have different theories. I exchanged cards with Javier Rodriguez who took this beautiful photo far better than the ones I snapped on my iPhone. I learned he is a professional photographer as well as the Fiscal and Business Specialist for the USF Office of Graduate Studies.
The sight of something so magnificent caused all of us to stop and stare. We stepped out of our normal routine for ten to fifteen minutes remarking on our good fortune to spot the sun halo. We will all always share that moment when we saw something so unusual that made us think about our place in the larger world well beyond the confines of our campus, our work, and our community. After I left my newfound friends, I remembered that the last time something I saw in the sky, when people were pointing, staring, and snapping pictures, was in downtown Manhattan on September 11th. That event, though horrific, nevertheless brought out a warm sense of community and oneness that I will never forget; but I feel so profoundly grateful that this time I could share something so beautiful with perfect strangers.
When I returned to my desk, I saw that post after post on Facebook were photos of the sun halo from friends from Sarasota, Tampa, and St. Petersburg. One friend shared a blog called, Life, Heart, and Soul, with the following explanation of the sun halo: “For some traditional native people, the Sunbow or Whirling Rainbow is considered to be a sign from Creator, marking a time of great change, or transition on the Earth. This full-circle rainbow around the Sun, some elders say, can be understood as a sign to people of the necessity to live a life in respect and harmony with all the creations that make life possible: plants, animals, waters, minerals, fires, winds, and other human beings.”
Since this week marks that I have now been working with the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships for one month, it was auspicious to see the “sunbow” which is meant to mark a “time of great change.” We have had a number of meetings in our office on a variety of issues related to social justice, including alleviating poverty, improving literacy, and institionalizing restorative justice practices among young people. I see that working together as a university with people doing great things in our local community, we can indeed usher in a period of great change. By connecting, working together, and stepping outside of ourselves, important changes can take place. The sighting of the sun halo filled me with hope for the future.