Randall Wayne Harrell
Some people will just absolutely surprise you the more you get to know them. Randall is one such person. When you first meet him, his genuine character, good humor and kindness will most likely be the first things you notice. All of those just after you notice his beard. If you take the time to have a conversation with Randy you'll quickly realize his vast knowledge and the humility in which he displays it.
There's something else too that you particularly notice when you talk to him, and that is he is listening and hanging on your every word. Just thinking about how I've felt after having a deep conversation with Randy taught me a lot about listening in general. When I say "listening" I mean intentional listening. The kind where your very purpose is to consume everything that's being given to you so that you might have a greater understanding of the person before you.
The reason that this intentional listening is so magnificent is because I believe it to truly be the key to harmony. It is in listening that we maintain a curiosity for one another, allowing us to dive deeper into understanding, rather than taking the little that we think we know and dismissing without investigation. We don't have to agree on all things and we don't have to settle to "tolerate" one another either.
Often in our conversations, we can only be waiting for our turn to speak. Think about a time when this has happened. You can always tell and you're left feeling not completely heard or considered. No one wants to feel that way or make another feel that way.
Here's what I've found. True listening becomes contagious. Almost like a yawn. When you give it in an authentic way I have found it to almost always be returned. When you give a person trust and a space to be heard it makes them want to give you the same courtesy and at the end of it you've had a real conversation and connection. You walk away with understanding.
I truly wish that you could all know Randall. I hope reading what he had to say will give you a small glimpse into what he has to say with his life.
Love Aimlessly, My Friends
What gets you out of bed every day?
Well, there's things that we have to take care of in life and for me, that starts at home and with my wife. I know that she would be fine without me but I wouldn't ever want her to have to be without me. So, getting out of bed is another chance to work really hard, to do the best job that I can. To love the people around me and serve and honor the God that I love. To live out the belief that I say that I believe in. That there's hope that is bigger than all the Hell on earth. That there's hope that is more true and lasting and that there are things that we can live in with positivity. The teachings of Jesus are a huge thing for me. I feel that I'm able to bring that to the human level of expression in how my life is lived.
My wife and I talk about doing things... Like, we had this weird conversation around the idea of what we would do if we didn't have to work for money. We asked ourselves what would we change. I feel like I really love the things that I'm able to do. Does that make sense? I mean, I don't always love some of the moments within the things that I get to do but me being a person that has always tried to put myself in places that I want to be and do things that I want to do, and not listen as much to what culture and society told me that I was supposed to do has been pretty clutch in my positivity and happiness in life. Maybe that's what gets me out of bed. I mean... anything else that gets me out of bed isn't important.
What's your second question?
To date, what is the greatest lesson that you’ve learned?
........ I don't know....... I'm always trying to learn something. Something that comes to mind is that we can directly influence the kind of person that we are to the world. There's definitely an amount of bearing in genetics. Where you come from and how you were raised, nurture vs nature and such, but more than that I think that we are all able to make choices. One person may be they were born into a situation that normalized being a criminal but they turn out okay. On the opposite side, you may have someone born into a good home but their nature is harmful and malicious. So, it seems to me that there's something between nature and nurture and a person is able to make choices.
I think that the in-between is the answer a lot of times. To bring up American politics, I don't think that a 100% liberal agenda is the right way, nor do I think a 100% conservative agenda is either. I think that we don't have to choose between the two. If you were to pull an example from the religious community, in Protestantism there's the idea of Arminianism and Calvinism which are two opposing sides of the argument of who the people who can come to God are. One says that the people that make it to God are the ones who are chosen and loved by God and the other says that there is a free will at work. I think that it's in the middle somewhere.
At the end of Forest Gump, he's questioning whether he believes in fate or if we're just all floating along on a breeze. He say's "I think it could be both."
One thing that seems to often ruin people's influence and relationships is the polarization of what happens between opposing sides. Seeing in the middle I think would be my greatest lesson. Early on I realized that I didn't have to choose one absolute or the other and that I could make decisions based on who I am and what I want to do with my life.
What is love?
The simple Christian answer would be to say "God is love" and I do think that love comes from God. I think that it's also been misappropriated because it leads people to believe that love cannot exist outside of God.
The way that I see love is that it's more of an action. It's also a choice. Whenever I say "I love you," I think that it means that "I care about you more that I care about me". Or at least "I care about you the same way I care about me." When I tell my wife that I love her I think I'm also saying that I want to put her desires before mine.
I think that love is unexplainable and that is why I started by saying that God is love. It's hard to explain. It's a feeling that we all know, feel or have felt but it's really hard to pinpoint. Of all the emotions it is the hardest.
About Randall: He holds a Master of Arts in Literary studies and is currently pursuing a PhD in literary studies, working with 19th-Century American literature.
He teaches English at Georgia state university.
From Leesburg, GA
Lives in Atlanta, GA