After an entirely too brief short holiday (about a week once the last retreat ended), the students began to return on Wednesday to register for the semester. Lectures begin on Monday, and I suppose it really doesn’t matter whether I’m ready or not; this introvert needs put on her big-girl skirt.
In order to make the chapel rota, I have to know who has actually returned on time (it’s probably fewer than you think), and the best way to do that is to go to the dining hall. The theologians are often the first to arrive for meals and tea, and generally sit at the tables on either side of the middle aisle, which I refer to as sitting on the banks of the Jordan.
The returning students have come to expect me to come to the dining hall during dinner on the Friday before lectures in order to pull together the team for the first week of chapel. Last year, when I had so magnificently split my lip and chipped my tooth, I asked one of the senior students to do it for me, and he reported that people were annoyed that I hadn’t come myself. In my defense, I really didn’t want them to have to eat while looking at the horrific mess that was my face at that point in time.
The new students were a bit shocked and perplexed as to why this white woman was entering the dining, and then sitting down to chat with students. It’s a joy to see them, especially as they’re so relaxed. That will change next week; I know I’m giving assignments in my first lecture.
I actually had a hard time finding the seven students I needed for the team; we don’t put first years on the rota, and the returning students were slow to return. Finally, I saw some of the third year students enter (why were they late? Theologians are never late for meals!), and when I went over to tell them my grand plan for their life, one of the young women, even before I had the chance to speak, looked up at me and said, “I want to be on your team.”
She helped fill up the team, which was fabulous, but those seven little words represented so much more to me than completing a task. It’s been a season of personal and professional upheaval, and in the midst of all that’s going on, her wanting to be on my team was a beacon of light. It may seem small, but it was a tremendous gift. I am exceedingly grateful.