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Rev. Charles “Chaz” Howard, C’00

University Chaplain and Vice President for Social Equity & Community, University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA

Urban Studies, Minor in Afro-American Studies

College in general is a time of uncertainty, exploration, learning about oneself, one’s passions and callings, which brings a lot of anxiety, and grief, and all that stuff. During the pandemic, all that is turned up to like a 10. A lot of us are feeling the real concern and worry about what the world is going to look like. Fear for our own health, fear for the health of our parents or grandparents, not to mention questions like, will we be able to get a job after this? On top of that, there is the uptick in racism, and bigotry, and violence. It’s a really intense time in the world.

Our team is aware that one of the things that makes these moments bearable is having someone to listen to what we’re feeling, and not to fix it. One conversation is not going to fix violence against black bodies or anti-Semitism, one conversation is not going to fix COVID.

Our team is aware that one of the things that makes these moments bearable is having someone to listen to what we’re feeling, and not to fix it.

But knowing that we’re not alone might make the day bearable. Being reminded there are things bigger than what we’re going through right now, reminding people that there is a future, that this isn’t forever, and that we will return to campus sometime, and that will all be back to work sometime, and that there will be a vaccine someday. We find that we’re trying to point people to hope.

One of the harder lessons for me to learn is self-care and dealing with stress. An aspect of ministry is getting into the mud with people, and one inevitably gets some of that mud on themselves. People come in and unburden themselves. It’s hard to learn how to take that off and put it somewhere else rather than carry it home with you.

So, I go and talk to a therapist regularly. I try to exercise and unplug as much as I can. When I’m not working, I want to be with my kids and watching old superhero movies. I read my comic books pretty religiously. I don’t like to pretend I’ve mastered it, but I’m learning. — August 30, 2020 • Photo by Brooke Sietinsons