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Arden Wells, Geologist-to-be, on Dirt

Posted By Alice C. Linsley, Thursday, August 22, 2013


Arden A. Wells is a sophomore at the University of Texas at Dallas. Her major is Geology and her minor is Public Health. Arden attended the 2013 ASA Conference in Nashville and all who met her were impressed with her enthusiasm, cheerful spirit and passion for science. Here she shares an uplifting account of service and faith.


by Arden A. Wells


Over spring break, I volunteered as a head counselor at a camp for people with disabilities. I had worked for a weekend camp session, but I had no idea how exhausting a full week of caring for eight teenage girls who needed constant attention would be.  Additionally, I came with a list of the chemical compositions of over 100 minerals that I was determined to memorize for an upcoming Rocks and Minerals exam.

One of the girls in my cabin, Sofia, communicated with smiles instead of words and needed constant supervision because she didn’t like to participate in the scheduled activities. The older counselors called her our "earth child” because she loved to play in the dirt.  Even though she needed a hand to hold whenever she walked or slept, she never wanted to interact with another person.

The six other counselors in our cabin and I took half-day shifts hanging out with Sofia.  My "Sofia morning” was one of the first warm days of the year, and she couldn’t wait to be outside. After Sofia finished her breakfast, she grabbed my hand, marched me around the campus, and promptly sat down in the middle of the trail and dug her fingers into the dirt. As soon as I knew that she wasn’t eating the dirt or going anywhere, I pulled out my notes and began to study my mineral compositions.

Aegirine. Na Fe Si 2 O 6.

Ugh. Memorizing all of these will be impossible.  Tedious.

I looked at Sofia. She was now tossing dirt up in the air.

Apatite. Ca 5  P O 4 times 3 F or CL or OH.

"Can’t I just Google this if I ever need this in real life?” I thought.

Sofia’s hands and clothes were now covered in dirt. And it was perfectly okay because this is what camp is about, and I had never seen her smile so much.

I grabbed a twig and sat across from her. I began digging up the softest dirt I could find and handing it to her. She looked me in the eyes and laughed. Pretty soon, I was drawing in the soil with my fingers, marveling at how small each grain was, and amazed that each tiny mineral had such an organized atomic structure. I was playing in the dirt.

What was I thinking? Her I was staring at a piece of paper when the real geology was right below my feet? I had to relearn how to play in the dirt in order to reclaim my enthusiasm for geology. I needed to step back from my frustration of not understanding everything, my drive to know instead of to appreciate.

When children first learn about astronomy or biology, they fill with wonder. Then somewhere in the course of their education many decide that science is "boring.” The childlike wonder for the world dissipates. Study of our universe becomes a list of seemingly pointless facts to memorize, complex rules to follow, and attempts to solve problems to which we can’t relate. When we walk away from childlike wonder, study of the vast expanding universe shrinks to an hour in a classroom.

We do the same thing with Christianity. And Jesus calls us out on it.

In Matthew 18:3, Jesus says "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

How can we experience God’s power and love without childish wonder? We can memorize the Bible and still not listen to a word God has to say. We can follow every rule but still lack enthusiasm over Jesus. We sit in church for every Sunday, but as we tailgate the car ahead of us on the drive home, we decide that the sermon really didn’t apply to our lives.

With both science and faith, we need to take time to step back and marvel, to get excited about how beautiful they are. Bible study sometimes feels like a task when it should be a privilege. I often feel stressed out when I have to study for an exam, but in reality I am extremely blessed that I have the opportunity to get a closer look at our planet.  

In John 8, the Pharisees come to Jesus with a woman who has committed adultery. They ask him if they should uphold the law and stone her. Before responding, Jesus "writes on the ground with his finger.” There are many different interpretations of what this passage means and speculations about what he wrote.

Personally, I think that as our Lord quickly prayed for this woman, He was playing in the dirt.

Tags:  Arden Wells  geology 

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