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Three Things to Share

I knew I was definitely going to write about Oklahoma today. If there is one place that I think of when I think “childhood,” it is Lawton/Ft. Sill, OK, where I attended 4th through half of 8th grade (when we moved to Japan). Not only do I still proudly say “y’all,” many of my most significant memories from school and church have their roots in the dusty soil of the Sooner State. Indeed, one of my “perfect days” came in 5th grade when my best friend, JoLynn Carter, and I spent the afternoon walking far out onto the glorious prairie that stretched behind my house (we walked so far it also scared our mothers silly, but their annoyance/frantic scolding–whatever–on our return didn’t really faze me and perhaps we’ll ignore it here too!).  

Of course, tornado drills were a frequent part of school.  And I remember a fair number of tornados too, including the “Terrible Tuesday” tornado that struck Lawton (and Wichita Falls, TX) in 1979.  It is an understatement to say that the devastation was incredible–I can still picture, for example, the huge metal signs at one of the car dealerships bent over to the ground and businesses completely gone.  

Thus, my heart goes out to the folks in Oklahoma.  But I don’t have anything beyond that to say, really.  Partly, because I think we “over-talk” tragedies.  Sometimes there’s nothing much to be said.

But also because as I’ve been finishing my grading today, I took a break or two (don’t judge!) and came across a couple of things that I wanted to share–and they seemed like better responses anyway.  And that’s one of the joys of having a place to blog: it doesn’t always have to be me.  Noticiing things is only fun when you get to show them to other people.

So three things:

First, a provocative commencement speech given by the artist Makoto Fujimura at Messiah College. David Foster Wallace’s “This is Water” has been making the rounds again of late–now in a video form–but Fujimura’s asks some important questions as well.  

Second, the very inspiring story of Zach Sobiech, who died Sunday, is going viral.  Watch and see why: 

Third, a moment of joy.


What more can be said after that?




Jennifer L. Holberg

I am professor and chair of the Calvin University English department, where I have taught a range of courses in literature and composition since 1998. An Army brat, I have come to love my adopted hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m also the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture. My book, Nourishing Narratives: The Power of Story to Shape Our Faith, was published in July 2023 by Intervarsity Press.


  • Dennis Kellermeierdkellermei says:


    Thank you for this, especially Makoto Fujimura's commencement address at Messiah College. I have shared it with several 2013 graduates of Grand Valley State College.

    For me and a friend, it was a corn field that stretched to the horizon and it is one of the most memorable "Wait until your father gets home." adventures of my childhood.

    I have also added "Noticing things is only fun when you get to show them to other people." to my favorite quotes on Facebook.

    I always look forward to your pots.

  • Jennifer L. Holberg says:

    Dennis: Thanks for being such a good and faith reader of The 12. I keep hearing from folks you have sent our way!

    And of course, these kind words here. The next time I see you, I'd like to hear the cornfield story!

  • Thomas C. Goodhart says:

    Thank you for sharing, Jennifer! While not as a child, I also lived in Oklahoma following college, and it has been much on my mind, especially May 3, 1999.

    Having just left work at the hospital in Lawton around 4:30 driving north through Fort Sill, needed to pull off along the highway seeing the storm off to the west. Would later find out that the tornado first touched down there in Medicine Park about that time. Raced home—a cabin on a ranch in Boone—to fortunately find my dog, Sarii, who was just a puppy a few months old safe and sound but scared and shaking at the wind. (He would always remain calm in thunderstorms but scared at high winds.) The storms seemed to jump our town of Apache, touching down in Anadarko instead, then bringing devastation as an F5 in Chickasha, 30 miles away. From there it moved on through the Oklahoma City suburbs of Moore and Midwest City… I’ve been taken by surprise at how palpable the memories are of that time and place, and perhaps by a kind of sharing and affection for it, how very moved I am for the folks currently going through this. Not only my memories, but my thoughts and prayers are there as well.

    I can picture that prairie behind your house. And perhaps even, the Wichita Mountains out in the distance. Again, thanks for your post.

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