MLK Jr. Forum
Alumnus shares message of justice, love and transformation
To a standing-room-only-crowd in Yoder Recital Hall, Rev. Daniel Hughes made a statement that nearly everyone has felt at some point in their life. “We can be extremely lonely in a place that is packed full of people.”
Hughes, a 2003 graduate and former faculty and staff member, returned to campus under a new title: Forum speaker. The pastor of the Price Hill campus of Shiloh United Methodist Church in Cincinnati shared a message of transformation through personal connection during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Forum.
“Bluffton develops people who can be civil and close,” said Hughes adding, “All of you at Bluffton are in a unique position and have a great opportunity to take a journey together.”
Using the words of Maya Angelou, “You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great,” Hughes explained we often push people away out of fear and in an effort to avoid pain, but that instead creates ignorance.
As a child, Hughes split his time on the family farm in the rural, predominately white community of Roundhead, Ohio, and his family’s church ministry in the city of Lima. He felt equally alone in both settings.
“In Roundhead, we just didn’t physically fit, and I would go to the store and encounter racism,” explained Hughes. “But then I would go to the city and be around people who looked like me, but because of my experiences in the country, I was told I sounded white. I looked like them, but I didn’t act like them. Where did I fit in?”
The answer came a few years later at Bluffton.
“At Bluffton, I found my place and my people. I was still in the minority, but there’s something about these Mennonites and their sense of community. They like to eat. I like to eat. They like to cook. I like to eat,” Hughes joked while adding that Bluffton became a place of opportunity that helped him tap into his wisdom, a process he describes as applying knowledge and compassion, and he flourished. Now, he feels as though he has the tools to belong in any place or situation, and he explained he often puts himself in situations where he is surrounded by people who could be labeled different than him.
“It’s hard to hate up close. It is harder to hate, ignore or be apathetic when you’re close to someone,” explained Hughes. “I don’t need to win against you; I need to know you. If you are the best you; you’ll make a better me.”
Sharing the advice of research professor Brene’ Brown, Hughes cautioned against “othering” people because it feel safer.
“We want to keep people in their categories. If they get too close to the core, they might hurt us and we don’t have the tools to be vulnerable,” said Hughes.
Hughes is actively partaking in this transformative work through Just Love, a Cincinnati group comprised of people with a wide variety of religious and cultural backgrounds and through ministry to the homeless, addicted and convict population. “If you restore the individual, you restore the community,” said Hughes, who explained greater outcomes are achieved by truly “being” with a person rather than trying to help a person.
"What we need to do is bring people in closer to our circles in order to get their perspective, get their wisdom, get their resources so that we can make our cities, our communities, our families better.”
"It’s hard to hate up close. It is harder to hate, ignore or be apathetic when you’re close to someone. I don’t need to win against you; I need to know you. If you are the best you; you’ll make a better me.”