Lessons from a (just barely) college graduate

The liberal arts college I attended was highly regarded for its nursing program, but most of the students attending it were on their way to some kind of career in teaching. My second year there I found myself living in a dormitory which was also occupied by several people who were majoring in physical education. Now, there’s an old saying that “those who can do, those can’t teach, and those who can’t teach, teach PE.” Although this is obviously unfair, one does occasionally meet someone who seems to fit the stereotype.

My pal Joe was one such individual.

He was, at that time, entering his FIFTH year of college and still struggling to finish the requirements for a four year BA degree. The college administration didn’t mind too much because he was also a very talented track and field athlete.

He wasn’t a “friend” of mine exactly. We didn’t have many common interests and although he was a pal I didn’t really “know” him, or much about him. Were it not for a particular incident that happened toward the end of that year we lived in the same building I probably wouldn’t even remember him. But because of that incident, I could never forget him.

Here’s what happened.

I was in my room one evening writing a paper for a class when he walked in the open door with a somewhat desperate look in his eyes. Right away I knew he needed something from me and my first thought was that I needed to find a quick way to get rid of him so that I could get back to writing my paper. But he started talking and I soon realized that I wasn’t going to be able to do that.

He told me he had a test the next day that he needed me to help him study for and that he’d already failed the class once before and this was his last chance, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to graduate and then he’d miss his chance for a really sweet job teaching PE and coaching at his old high school. His parents had already made a down payment on a house and he wanted to marry his girlfriend and it was all dependent on passing this test. All that made sense (and explained the desperate look in his eyes when he asked me for help) but then I asked him what class it was and he told me it was…US History 102.

That really took me aback, because he was 23 years old, a fifth year senior in college, and US History 102 was a class most people took when they were an 18 year old freshman. But here he was, so we sat down and over the next few hours I took him through most of the material in the course syllabus. We quit around two in the morning because he couldn’t stay awake any longer but he got up at eight in the morning and managed (just barely) to pass the test and the class. A few weeks later I watched him walk across the stage and accept his college diploma, knowing I’d played a small but decisive part in enabling him to do so. That was the last time I ever saw Joe, although I think about him sometimes because his experience demonstrates a principle which is very important to understand and come to grips with.

Like my old pal Joe, who spent 13 years in the American public educational system and another five in college but somehow managed to never attain a basic working knowledge of the most rudimentary elements of America’s history and/or the political, social and economic life of the country, there are many people who spend decades faithfully attending church and never really grasp the most basic principles of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

It’s important to periodically take stock of ourselves to see if we’re one of those people and if so, to think about what we can do to fix the problem. If someone is still in “Christian Living 102” after decades of attending Church, it’s time to start devoting more time to making progress in our spiritual lives and not just going through the motions. Even if we’re not, it’s still a good idea to periodically think about ways to make our walk with the Lord a more central aspect of our lives, and I’m saying that to myself as well as to whoever might be reading this.

May God give us all the wisdom and dedication we need to take these very important steps.