Wednesday, November 19, 2008

And so it began...

It was Autumn now and the campus was beautiful. The trees scattered all long the winding brick walkways wore jewel tones of gold, amber, amethyst and ruby. There was little time to enjoy it though since classes had begun at a downhill pace. I had to work hard to keep up with all my subjects in addition to working 15 hours a week at the infirmary. Finding a quiet place to study was another challenge in the noisy freshman dorm, so I would often escape to the library to study until it closed at night. I was struggling and frustrated that it was harder than usual for me. I was missing my family and friends at home...and Ross.

It wasn't all hard work though. I got involved with the Baptist Student Union and served on the BSU freshman council (photo below - I'm on far right). We went on special mission trips, such as to the city jail, pediatric wing of the hospital and the nursing homes. I joined the BSU choir (they didn't ask if I could sing). We traveled to several different places giving concerts throughout the year. We were boarding the bus for one such concert when the tragic news of JFK's assasination was announced. Being on that bus with all those students who were as stunned as I was will always live in my memory of that sad day.

Prior to the football games in the Fall, there would be a bonfire and a "hootenanny". When you hear the words "sixties music", it's that legendary 60's rock 'n roll that comes to mind; but the sixties were also a time of serious folk music. Musicians like Peter, Paul and Mary who sang the following songs made the folk music of the sixties also memorable: If I Had A Hammer, Go Tell It On the Mountain, Blowing in the Wind, 500 Miles, Cruel War, Puff the Magic Dragon.

It has been forty-five years, but I still remember those brisk Autumn nights sitting around the huge bonfire singing the words to Cruel War and all the other unforgettable folk songs...

First Impressions

The days immediately preceding my freshman year of college were bittersweet ones. My heart was still tender and nothing was ready for my leaving home. Since I'd given up my scholarship, it meant Daddy having to get a bank loan for my meals, housing, books and tuition; and it meant my having to work on campus at the infirmary for anything else I might need. My sister Gerry helped me with the last minute preparations, remembering many things I hadn't even thought of, such as an alarm clock, iron and ironing board.

A few days before leaving for college, I was browsing through a friend's yearbook from the school. One photo in particular caught my attention - that of a young man whose face was literally, vertically half handsome and half distorted. I'm not sure if he had been born that way or at some point in his life had experienced severe nerve damage. At first glance, his face was disconcerting, and a giggle nervously escaped my lips. My friend glared at me, and said "that's John and he's wonderful".

The next few days were extremely busy as I packed and my parents drove me the four hours south of Memphis to school. The weekend before registration was hectic as I unpacked, set up my room the best I could and slowly met a few people. Honestly, I was still feeling very much alone and lonely.

It poured rain the Monday of registration. We stood in line, outside of course, with a line of umbrellas stretched one after the other. My umbrella accidently hit the umbrella behind me. I turned around to apologize...and there stood John. I looked into one of the sweetest faces I have ever seen in all of my life. He laughed, made some joke about the weather and we were instant friends. John was a senior at that time and a leader on campus...president of half the organizations there as I recall. He was a strong Christian and a great speaker. John became my good friend.

I learned a lot from John that year...I learned about overcoming from someone who had overcome and found great joy. I learned not to dwell on what could have been but to look forward to what my Heavenly Father had in store for me. I learned to look for what's on the inside of someone's heart...rather than the outside...and that first impressions aren't always right.

My friend John graduated with high honors and married one of my closest friends...a sweet and loving young woman who also just happened to be one of the most beautiful girls on the entire campus. I love it when God smiles...