I have to start this with a little preface because context is everything and knowing the whole story might be better for everyone.
Preface to Interviews with Steven Morrow
Steven Morrow was the chapel intern at Biola University during the 2013-2014 semester. I spoke at After Dark in February of 2014 and met with him a few times before to the plan the two-week chapel event. Months after my chapel, I needed to pick up a few chapel credits before the end of the semester and saw Steven’s name on the roster for that evening. I thought, “Hey, he was pretty nice and really supportive of me. I’ll go see him speak.” I went alone to the chapel and slipped in the back section of the middle aisle. He used the words vulnerability and connection a lot through his twenty-minute session so I was pretty sure he had heard the name Brené Brown (Sociology researcher and author – real good you should look her up) at least once in his life. I e-mailed him that night and asked if he had watched Brené’s TED Talk. He said he had, and I recommended her book “Daring Greatly”. We never spoke again over the summer.
Flash forward to my final semester at Biola. Steven and I saw each other on campus and we caught up for a minutes. We talked about the book, TED Talks, and The Office finale. He began doing a small research study on the use of humor in healing with those who have suffered a brain injury, and I was in the middle of my pilot study on how humor impacts connection within interpersonal relationships.
I’m really not into all those couplely things, because they can be overwhelming on the Internet. My desire is to not invoke your gag reflex while you’re reading this essay. I’m biased in a lot of ways because I’m dating the guy, but really why I’m writing this is because he actually just has a lot of cool things to say. It might also be my backwards way of convincing him to write a book or continue teaching because other people will bother him as much as I do about it.
We are approaching this as recently graduated humans with degrees in humanities (sociology / communication), lovers of Brené Brown, researchers of humor, and dedicated Office viewers. To give the best perspective of Steven as a person I will quote probably the one traceable item on the Internet that he has ever said when interviewed by a Biola blogger: “It makes me sad that the phrase, ‘Life isn’t fair’ is accurate. I want to help that in the lives of the people I come across.”
So here are things that I sometimes ask Steven about various aspects of life. Everything from racial tensions in America, to why he doesn’t love going to Disney, experiencing hardships, what it is like to be IDed all the time at bars, and how he feels we could be better humans:
Interviews with Steven Morrow
Sidebar:This whole interview was soundtracked by Hall & Oats, ‘Rich Girl’.
Question 1: You recently read a different Brené Brown book (I Thought It Was Just Me), what has been your biggest take away from the book?
Steven: “The thing that stuck out, it was less a big picture, but more one small part of something she wrote. She wrote about the culture of disconnection and how it is easy to fall in gossip situations and it’s easy to pick people apart by creating shame. An example would be someone commenting, ‘Oh, she’s a terrible mother.’ She lays out these strategies for actively not engaging into shame culture by giving that person the benefit of the doubt and redirecting the conversation. Instead you could say, ‘ I wasn’t there so I can’t really speak into that situation, but from what I know about her she is a really nice woman.’”
Question 2: You are working and living in Denver, Colorado at an organization called City Year. What has been the coolest part of your transition?
Steven: “I was surprised when I learned more about City Year that there are two different standings: Ask a student if they would want to do City Year and they would probably say, hell no. Those are the same students who are the ones that love the program. They wouldn’t do it themselves, but they are thankful for it. I thought it was cool because you can have this attitude that this person is not anything like me, but they are still on my side. It was encouraging because you don’t always have to change yourself to fit a certain circumstance, but you can still be a benefit to them. You can be different and on their team – it’s not an un-crossable gap. I hope the image of City Year I can create is ‘Oh, that person is nothing like me, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that person is still on my side.”
Question 3: Why do you hold doors open for people?
Steven: “I think it’s an easy way to communicate to people that they are seen, because you literally saw them coming and held the door open. It is a very easy way to make someone else’s day a little easier. It shows a general mindfulness for other people.”
Question 4: In your research last year on humor, what was the major take away from the study/were there any interesting stories from your interviewees?
Steven: “The main story that comes to mind is the one that got the whole thing started. I was at the support group meeting and this guy Al stood up and shared his story. He was teaching in the Midwest and had a stroke and it was pretty severe. His wife was transferred to California near a center that was a leader in stroke recovery. They just had to move their family to California. He said in the meeting, ‘Obviously, the choice was a no brainer – which is great because I didn’t have much of a brain at the time.’ I laughed because one he killed the joke, but he also used the joke to effectively share his story. From there, the research and interviews I had with him and others confirmed what he demonstrated. We can use humor to share parts of ourselves, especially the hard parts, as a way to disarm the elephant in the room.”
Question 5: What could America/American Christians do better at right now?
Steven: “I think it’s a mistake to use laws and government to make people Christian. It’s impossible. That’s not the law’s job. Their job is to keep people safe, not to change hearts. They should stop pushing that responsibility off on the government and take it upon themselves.”
Question 6: What’s your biggest pet peeve? Big or small.
Steven: “I can never think of them when I am asked. I have so many pet peeves. I can never think of them.”
Becky: “Are you looking up pet peeves online?”
Steven: “Common pet peeves, just a quick search online to see if anything jogs my memory. Which ones have I listed already?”
Becky: “People who don’t hold open doors and people who chew loud.”
Steven: “Let’s go with people who chew loud for now. Or E-cigs.”
Question 7: Since I look like I am roughly in my late 30s and rarely experience it, what’s it like to have to pull your ID at the grocery store?
Steven: “It’s not too bad. But if they give me attitude like this one lady said, ‘Are you old enough to buy this?’ and I said, ‘Let’s find out.’ Then it’s fun. I usually thank them when they check because it’s keeping people safe.”
Question 8: If you were stuck in Disneyland or California Adventure for an entire day where would you choose to be?
Steven: “Toy Story Mania. It has a very high re-playability. It’s also nice because it is air-conditioned and you can sit down.”