Christopher J. Doucot ’08 M.A.R.
B.A. College of the Holy Cross 1989
On Clowns and Bridges: What I hope to do with my YDS degree
Growing up, I was always afraid of bridges and clowns. Years ago I was driving with my wife and two boys across the Tobin Bridge in Boston. At the apex of the bridge there is a toll booth. As I rolled down my window to pay, my knuckles white and jaw clenched, my younger boy waggishly quipped: “Hey dad, what if the toll collector is a clown?” So it's a bit ironic that I hope to use my experience at YDS to be a bridge and a clown.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes: “We are fools for Christ's sake.” (1Cor 4:10). In Western Christianity the premier fool for Christ was Francis of Assisi. Though born wealthy, he embraced Lady Poverty. Though he could have easily lived his days in privileged distance from the infirmed, he kissed lepers. And though his church was busy blessing wars against our brothers in Abraham, Francis walked across the battle lines to love his enemy. The foolish ways of Francis were visible signs of his love for an otherwise despised Christ. Our world full of “enemies,” persons living in poverty and suffering from preventable disease, is in desperate need of some fools who recognize Christ homeless, imprisoned, infirmed and embattled among us.
I've been living in a Catholic Worker community in north Hartford for 15 years, trying my best to be a fool for Christ by living in voluntary poverty, welcoming homeless sisters and brothers into my home, tutoring children, resisting war in the midst of conflict in Bosnia, Iraq, Darfur and elsewhere, and praying for peace outside the Pentagon and White House (at times my prayers have enabled me to “visit the imprisoned” at the insistence of the courts). An older mentor of mine in the Catholic Worker movement once told me (paraphrasing Sen. Lloyd Bentsen): “Chris, I knew St. Francis and you're no St. Francis.” He's right of course; but that's all right, I'm still trying.
By attending YDS I widened my circle of friendships and acquaintances. Moreover, the privilege conferred by acceptance into the Yale community will continue to open doors to me. It is not hyperbole to state that Yale alumni have disproportionately great influence in our world. It is likewise not hyperbole to point out that the people in my neighborhood, and in the war zones I've visited, are utterly disenfranchised. Yale alumni have limitless social capital with direct access to opinion shapers and policy makers. Meanwhile, the social, economic, cultural and geographic isolation of my neighbors in north Hartford coalesce mightily, resulting in their paucity of social capital. In north Hartford the cry of the poor is as loud as an ambulance's siren; in the halls and sanctuaries of power and privilege their cry is less audible than the annoying buzz of a fluorescent light.
In the coming years I hope to use the privilege of my Yale education and my membership in the Yale alumni community to be a bridge between the powerful and the neglected, the well-connected and the radically isolated, the heard and the ignored. Among Yale's graduates are bishops, prime ministers, presidents, CEOs, members of Congress, Nobel laureates, and now a foolish Catholic Worker.