I paid a lot of money for college. But I think I really only learned one thing. But it is the one thing I needed to learn, and I still carry with me to this day...
My first semester of college was a lot like a 1980s movie. It was so over-the-top... the way every single thing just seemed to go wrong. You could have cued a Huey Lewis and the News soundtrack behind my daily misadventures.
It’s funny now. Was not so much then. Living in western PA my whole life, then suddenly finding myself at college in Circleville, Ohio - in a place where I knew nothing and no one!
I laugh to myself when I think back now of trying to find the bookstore. The bookstore was right in town, but I seem to remember spending hours and hours and hours driving around block after block after block trying to find the bookstore. And the town wasn’t exactly New York City. So it’s embarrassing that I got lost repeatedly (this was before everyone and their baby cousin had a GPS).
Then the car problems. I remember having so many problems with that Chevy Cavalier. Problems that I, a non-mechanic, had to figure out how to fix, because I didn't have any money. Or tools. Or clue. I remember standing out in subzero weather in the parking lot with the hood popped, trying to replace the antifreeze tank, noting the irony as my hands were freezing. And I think at the time the only tool that I had was one of those little screwdrivers you get with an eye glasses repair kit.
So I'm in the middle of a place where I don't know anyone, I don't know where I'm going, and now I think I broke my only screwdriver and I'm not sure how I'm going to repair my eyeglasses.
Then school started. I went into the cafeteria for my first lunch as a freshman. Feeling geekishly awkward and desperately wanting to fit in, I remember how delighted I was when one of the "cool kids" (he must have been wearing sunglasses) offered me a seat at his table. Finally. Things are turning around for me.
And right when I went to sit down, another student rushed up, grabbed the seat, turned around, and looked at me with a serious scowl, saying, “There’s no room for you here.“
I stood there with my tray of terrible food and looked around the table. Everybody was just looking at me, some with a “sorry about your luck, pal” expression, others with a “seat‘s taken, Forrest Gump“ look.
I briefly contemplated either dropping my tray and running out the door all the way back to Pittsburgh, or to start flinging my mashed potatoes like a crazy monkey. But I just stood there like an idiot, paralyzed and completely clueless as to what to say or do.
That's what I heard a voice. “Young man, would you like to join us?” I turned and saw the man who was speaking. He was one of the professors, Dr David Case. And he asked me to sit down at the table with all of the other professors and have lunch.
This didn't really make me any less nervous. I was afraid that they were going to talk about a lot of Bible stuff, and at the time I was a new Christian and didn't know a lot of Bible stuff.
But they didn't talk about Bible stuff at all. They just talked about things like where are you from and what brought you here and what’s your family like and what do you hope to do when you graduate and stuff like that.
I graduated from that school almost 15 years ago now. And I'm sure that I learned some things in my time at Circleville Bible College or Ohio Christian University or whatever they call it now.
But the only lesson that really stuck with me was that lesson that I learned on the first day: Some people just need someone to reach out to them, to know they are not alone.
Dr Case showed me (by his example to me) that I should always be on the lookout for those people. Yes, it sounds crazy, but that one simple act turned a lot of things around for me that day.
And it stopped any potential disciplinary measures from the Dean of Students for any unsightly mashed potato flinging damage.
Be on the lookout for people who need a friend.
p.s. - Since college, went on to fame and fortune and got a new screwdriver.