Can you notice the difference?

Sitting in a small, un-air-conditioned room in the sweltering heat of a summer in Shanghai, China, as I was entering my senior year of college at Xavier University, I posed the question: Can you believe the differences that four years can make?

Now, as sit in a cold air-conditioned basement on a fold-out bed in the house of an old friend, the night before my fifth year alumni weekend at Xavier University, I wonder if I can still notice the difference.

In my time since graduation, I have faced many challenges and have been blessed with many opportunities. I have been working at my high school alma mater, where every moment of every day, I am humbled to work with some of the most inspiring students who push me not to be a better teacher, but to be a better person. I have worked and volunteered at organizations that have introduced me the paper-thin differences that separate the “haves” and the “have-nots.” I have failed miserably and embarrassingly nearly to the point of shame. I have lost a father who I barely got to know. I walked across a country with an incredible friend, who I met at Xavier, and learned more from placing one foot in front of the other than I ever thought imaginable.

Looking back, five years does not seem like all that much of a difference. It’s only one more year than a typical high school or college career. But, I surely notice a difference.

When I began typing this post, I considered only reposting a piece I wrote the day before my graduation, but I feel that more can be said. Certainly the original piece is true, but my landscape has certainly changed.

It’s time to revisit those words and imagine, their weight five years after graduation.

Home. It’s a simple word, but its roots bury deep. We connect “home” to buildings and spaces, to places that we have made our own. Home, however, is more than brick and mortar.

For four years, I called Xavier University my home. It was the place that challenged me, moved me, and comforted me. Through laughter and tears, I was drawn year after year to the uniqueness of that place. Time has moved on and that place became less of a home. My homestead has since occupied new spaces. Everything has changed. The end of my Xavier career is now marked by a diploma that sits on a shelf. As discomforting as this transition seems, I must remind myself that while that place was my home, our real home is located far beyond.

The home that I came to love at Xavier University is in the community of people that I encountered everyday. My home at Xavier University was located in the faculty, many of whom have since retired or moved to other universities. In their ability to meet each students’ needs, the faculty allowed my mind to grow more than I thought possible, and has continued to connect with me challenging me to still discover deeper intellectual truths.  My home at Xavier University was located in the staff. In their support and willingness to go beyond their job descriptions. The sheer presence of the staff opened my heart to compassionately love everyone that I meet. My home at Xavier University was located in my fellow students. In the smiles, laughter, late night conversations, and willingness to love boldly, the students of Xavier University that have since spread themselves to various corners all around the globe made that place a home.

Home is more than brick and mortar. Xavier University was my home. The Gallagher Student Center, the residence halls, and the academic buildings were all places that held my time and my memories, but yet they were merely shells. The students, faculty, staff, and community, that is Xavier University. Without the people, that place would be nothing.

As the Class of 2013 begins our return to campus, we must remember that we are Xavier University. We must remember that the home we loved and cherished for four years is not on those grounds, but within each other. As we fight-back laughter-filled-tears, and reminisce on memories past, we must remember that the comfort and support we felt here in this home and have continued to share in the five years since is alive in our hearts. We have move beyond the 45207 zip-code, but the the spirit of Xavier University is with us.

We are Xavier University. We have been challenged intellectually, morally, and spirituality. We have been rigorously and compassionately molded to become men and women for and with others. We have been called to love and serve others in ways we never thought imaginable. We have each shared unique and personal memories that will remain in us for the rest of our lives. Without the space, there would not have been a place for these memories to have been captured. Without the people, there would not be any memories. We are Xavier University. We have shaped this place, just as it has shaped us. This place was our physical home, but now Xavier University is the home that dwells within each of us. Xavier University will forever fuel our hearts, and connect us to the community that we were so deeply rooted. It is now time for others to make this place their home.

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