Today, I joined a college president, a chaplain and two deans to present a former student with her Lynchburg College degree and Alumni Association certificate. Looming ahead is this weekend’s Homecoming festivities and Alumni Board meeting, and the moments we spent with student J, and her mother and boyfriend, gave us all perspective on why we work so hard to maintain and strengthen our community.
Student J, you have to understand, suffered a debilitating aneurysm one semester before she was to graduate; perhaps only a week before she was to schedule her final college hurdle – student teaching. Student J was one of the most promising education majors in her class. When you talk to her family, you hear them fighting emotion to make sense of the change in focus. They went from planning the life of her dreams to making her comfortable in a state of immobility; and learning to communicate with eye movements and eyebrow hikes.
A SILENT THANK YOU
As one, then the other of us made our presentations to Student J, the emotion of the moment was overwhelming. There were no dry eyes. As a former professor’s words were lavished upon her, a single tear escaped the corner of her eye. Every drop of air was sucked out of the room as we were assured by her silent applause that she was fully present in her moment.
With great difficulty, I made my way through comments that felt trite after her eloquent quietness, and we prepared to leave. A simple prayer to close our event brought the seven us together as family in Student J’s impeccably maintained world. The joyful emotion of the ceremony gave way to a joyful celebration.
Student J’s single tear, her mother’s emotion-strained voice, the quaking silence of her boyfriend — proof that good men still exist — gave testimony to how much these brief minutes meant to them.
A COMMUNITY WORKING TOGETHER IS POWERFUL
So as we head into Homecoming weekend, I assure you we will witness many emotional exchanges, and watch numerous honorees wax eloquent about their richly-deserved recognitions. But it will be Student J’s single tear that will define the amazing impact our work can have on other people.
So for all my colleagues who work equally hard, with great passion, please know that what I had the privilege of witnessing today was an expression of thanks to you, too.