You learn a lot by watching people. Over the past few years, I have made some good friends at the university. I admire their people skills, their good will, and their steady hard work. I love to see order emerge from my messy Excel sheets with numbers everywhere – suddenly the digits fall into line and they make sense when the accountants take charge. The proofreaders send back copy with red or green markings that make the writing clearer. The phone rings and the alum on the other line expresses appreciation for good service by the Registrar, or Enrollment, or my student assistant.
The faculty, with their love of learning and big heart for students, make the university what it is. With the inevitable administrative decisions like budgets, classroom allocations, and which programs to build or contract, not every professor can get his or her wish list filled all the time. But gradually, slowly, one step after another, the departments emerge with new offerings and majors. The persistence of passion wins out.
When students leave the institution, they will take memories of dorm antics, prayers in chapel, a few “aha” moments in class that shaped their thinking, and hopefully establish a trajectory of faith to sustain them through the challenges of life. Some will also gather disappointments, bear the consequences of immature decisions, remember personality clashes with others, or leave with huge debts because they spent without getting a job that paid their way or because they were extravagant rather than frugal. Since culture teaches that we deserve to live well regardless of our income or resources, actual life can be a rude awakening, even in college.
Sometimes I wish I could take every alum back to school for a week to hang out with students and hear their desire to serve Jesus. I wish graduates would be very generous in paying the way, mentoring, or encouraging students as they struggle through the confusion and delights of being young and adventurous, bold and defiant, courageous and uncertain of the future. (The process of learning and growing up requires many mistakes. How helpful when we can remember that our errors don’t ruin us in God’s eyes.) God works with every bit of ourselves that we surrender, and guards and guides throughout our education.
At the end of another day, I’m happy to have: chatted with a kind alum visitor, accepted some 1950s textbook donations, had lunch with women colleagues, written a board meeting agenda, and filled the spaces between with pressing tasks. It was full. And it was long.
Now, peace to all who go into the night. Tomorrow will be another day to support God at work among us.