Graceland

Today, my student loan grace period ends.

It’s hard to believe six months have passed since graduation. Sitting in the Marriott Center, falling to sleep to Elder Oaks’s commencement speech. I only slept because my friends who sat by me made me so very comfortable. The hour before, we happened to find each other in that giant mob of the School of Humanities, all of us scattered about in the ASB parking lot, and it’s not like we planned it. We’re humanities majors; our degrees were not in planning. But we stood in the sun, waited for our cue, marched into the arena. Passed by professors in their regalia while “Pomp and Circumstance” blared. I wonder if Sir Edward Elgar ever got annoyed by how long his piece could be.

I could not have been more honored sitting with these friends:

Maddie thinks big and likes small houses. She’s passionate for noble causes and homemade pickles.

Jen, “Ms. Magna,” was so very ready to take her vacation to Ireland and wants to take on a certain spritely dancing violinist.

Stephanie, was more or less on her way to an internship in France, because if you can change France, you change the world.

Bridgette has already landed a job, and her mind is anywhere but Provo. She might be too smart for her own good.

The five of us. A juggernaut of awesome women. BYU graduates. Ever so ready to take on the world.

I wish we would have gotten a picture.

Always, I’ll feel indebted, but friends are the kind of grace never ends.

From Early This Evening, Wilkinson Center Computer Lab

Hey, are you from New York?

Um, yes?

I know you from somewhere…

Hey, yeah! You’re totally [a former seminary student]!

You were my seminary teacher!

Wow.

I have to go, but can I get your number?

Sure, it’s [my phone number]. How have you been?

Good! My ride is here –

Call me –

But I’ll call you.

Awesome.

***

Being here is still so incredibly surreal.

From Early This Evening, Wilkinson Center Computer Lab

Early Morning Blessings

During Wednesday’s lesson on humility, I had the students write down word associations for pride and humility. We went over some of the students’ answers for humility. One of them mentioned someone we all know. She moved away during the summer. That person had been on my mind the rest of the day and I made a mental note to send this person an email to let her know the students and I were thinking about her.

That’s what I did. I sent her a message and let her know that I missed her. I found a response from her the next day. She told me she was glad I get to teach the Upper West Side class. She said they lucked out. She said that I am perfect for those kids. She was really sweet, and I took her words to heart. 

On Friday, our class had a really good discussion on the Christmas story. The kids had some excellent comments, and they sustained the conversation. On their own, they contributed insights on symbolisms about the sheep and shepherds, the differences between shepherds and sheep herders, and foreshadowing regarding the inn where there was no room, and how we’re supposed to accept Christ into our hearts, not like the innkeepers. I mean, these kids were blowing me away. 

I started the lesson by tying in our birthdays. I asked them if they’ve ever pondered their existence, their importance in this world. We had a metaphysical discussion for a while. They were deep, they were thoughtful, they were intelligent. No cookie-cutter answers from them. I asked them about their singular significance among the billions of people who have lived and ever will live. 

The class went over time. I wrapped it up by saying we’d discussed what our birthdays mean to us, we’d thought about what Christmas means to us, so what do we mean to Christ? Then they sat silently for a few seconds, and one of them commented this was a journal moment. This is when they’d write down their thoughts about the question. I closed with a scripture, Moses 1:39: “For behold, this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” What do they mean to Christ? Their immortality, their eternal life. That is their singular significance. And that was my testimony. 

The interaction was ideal. I sat and listened to all those comments, and I’d throw in a guiding question or mediate between students here and there. I responded to the comments, and I gave facts regarding how far Joseph and Mary traveled to register for the census, or the differing accounts of the Christmas story in the Gospels. There was serious discussion. There was laughter, even lots of it. The more timid kids got to speak up, and I got to encourage them.

It was a deeply humbling experience, watching those kids shine. I couldn’t believe how well everyone was getting along. I couldn’t believe I was interacting with some of the best of America. Right there. In that room. At 6:30 in the morning. The email my friend sent on Thursday revisited my mind, and it occurred to me that class challenges me. They make me want to be a better teacher, and they’re also very accepting of who I am. I’m the one who lucked out. Those kids are perfect for me. I can’t ever forget that.