I want to tell you a story from my sophomore year of college. The freshman year stories are way better, obviously, but this one stuck with me instead of fading away as beer fueled stories tend to do.
I went to a very conservative Christian college. Think of the stuffiest church you’ve ever been to and add a college to it. Skirts below the knee, no open-toed shoes, and those gawdawful pantyhose. True story, first week of freshman year I took a pumice stone to the top of my foot until it bled horrendously just so I could get a note from the campus Dr excusing me from the pantyhose requirement. The note was only good for two weeks, but I strategically changed the date so many times that it lasted me the whole two years I was there. Naturally, I majored in debauchery and canny deception.
Anyway, each Spring semester, there would be a campus wide Spring Cleaning. Now, it’s not the type of spring cleaning that involves chemicals and scrubbing. This Spring Cleaning was more of a spiritual Spring Cleaning. More students were expelled during the first 2 or 3 weeks of the Spring Semester than any other. This house cleaning, so to speak, made it very easy to get expelled; too many “bed not made” demerits, doodling a voluptuous fairy instead of taking notes during chapel, staying at Cordova Mall past 5pm, visiting a Blockbuster — all of these petty offenses resulted in friends being expelled from college. Somehow, I made it two years. It still amazes me. (And no, I wasn’t kicked out!)
The spring semester of my sophomore year, I sat in the lobby of my dorm waiting for a friend. A girl down the hall had been kicked out of college the day before for sneaking a kiss with her boyfriend and I saw her there in the lobby, in the middle of all her boxed up things, looking lost, alone, and scared. Naturally, I watched her and imagined myself in the same situation. Her face was puffy and her eyes were terribly bloodshot, the tear stains still on her cheeks. She was barely into her 5th month of college, and now she was expelled. The front desk clerk walked over and somberly said that her father had just checked in and would be around to pick her up shortly. The poor girl burst into fresh tears and buried her face in her hands. I felt sick for this girl and wanted to comfort her, but there were strict rules against talking to students in the process of expulsion. I dared not risk it.
Sure enough, a dark SUV pulled up in front of our building and a middle aged man got out. He looked road weary and anxious, squinting into the sun to make sure he was at the right place. He walked around the far side of the car and opened the back, preparing to load all his daughter’s things back into the car that took her to college just a few short months ago.
That Dad, saddened, frustrated, and probably a little angry with his daughter, walked into our building carrying flowers. Freaking flowers, people! He didn’t lecture or glare like I’d seen a lot of the parents in that situation do, he tenderly handed his daughter flowers and held her while she cried. I could hear him saying “I love you so much” as I walked out the door, swiping at my own tears.
I never saw that girl or her dad again, but I’ve always kept that story close to my heart and felt privileged for having witnessed such an intimate moment.
There are so many things to take away from this story, but no matter the situation in your life today, live your story with compassion and love. It will make more of a difference than you will ever know.