(Note: this was supposed to be a point in Saturday's entry, but it just kept wanting to be its own post. So I let it. Seriously, I lost a fight to a blog post. How's that for humiliating?)
For you non-Taylor people out there, Les Gerig Hall is a delightful little dorm right next to my own, one that I’d never spent any significant amount of time in before a few months ago. Even though it was probably twenty yards from my door, and I had several friends who lived there. Which really doesn’t make any sense.
That started to change when I got a little scolding from Psalm 1. (Don’t you hate it when dead Scripture writers do that to you? You can’t even argue with them, especially if they’re included in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. Or called “a man after God’s own heart.”) Here it is, in the ESV, which is apparently more inspired than the average Bible, by the way. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.”
The point of the verse is simple: be righteous. To get that point across, the psalmist makes an overstatement: not only should you not be a sinner, but you shouldn’t even walk in the same places that they do. They can’t influence you in any way if you don’t even associate with the paths they walk on.
For some reason, my backward mind took this and reversed it. I asked myself, “What paths should I be walking that I don’t?”
And right away, I thought of the sidewalk outside of the library.
If you’re walking across campus after class at Taylor, you’ll reach a point on this path that divides every dorm into its own little branch. Bergwall turns to the right and Olson to the left. Deeper down it splits again into Gerig, Wengatz, and English, each with their own little concrete paths. You know right away where a person lives by seeing which path they take.
I am a proud three-year-resident of English Hall. I love the girls there. By my junior year (with the same roommate, in the same room, and with the same room setup as the day I moved in freshman year), this place has become comfortable and familiar.
Every day, I take the exact same route back to my dorm, even when I’m just walking by myself. Every day, I wave to friends who branch off to other sidewalks. Every day, I see the same people parallel to me, but those three yards of grass in between us might as well be a mile.
They can’t influence me in any way because I don’t even associate with the paths they walk on. And this time, unlike in the Psalms, that’s not a good thing.
Gerig (and any other dorm or group) is a scary place because it is not home. It does not fit into my normal schedule. I’m not 100% sure that my presence will be accepted there. I didn’t take the time to think all this through, but if I had, these are the conclusions I would have come to.
Routine is the enemy of love. Maybe that’s one point to the story of the Good Samaritan: to love your neighbor, you have to do something that may be uncomfortable, that takes you outside of what is normal and causes you to sacrifice something.
So I’m trying to do a few little things to change my routine. Here they are. Maybe you can test them out with me and see how that works for you.
- Take a different path…literally. Walk down another sidewalk. Eat lunch at a different table. Say hi to someone you’ve never met. I’ve had some great conversations lately when I’ve taken a non-English fork of the sidewalk. There have also been times when I haven’t talked with anyone, but apparently switching up your routine is good for your brain anyway, so it still wasn’t wasted effort. (A sidenote: if you are ever planning on participating in Assassins, it would be good to be known for this. That way, it will be harder to track your usual patterns. Just throwing that out there.)
- Learn about people and what matters to them. Back to Gerig again. Because they’re such a close-knit community, all you have to do is ask a Gerigian, “What do you love about living in Gerig?” and you will get a wide variety of enthusiastic (and completely heartwarming) answers. I will probably never get tired of this question, applied to any group, but especially this particular hall. Trash chute serenades, slightly scandalous Christmas gift exchanges, Nerf guns, and a war between those who put the phone right side up and upside down topped the last few lists. When you ask people about what they love, you see them as people, with all of the quirky, delightful little things that make them unique.
- Show love in the best way you know how. I love making food for people. I also love talking with interesting people, especially if we can go past small talk and actually discuss something that matters. And I play board games, especially ones that make you think and interact with people. Fighting Alzheimer’s one terrain hex at a time. (Settlers of Catan reference—sorry for excluding all of you non-players.) That’s just what I do. Loving your neighbor will look different for everyone. My way isn’t necessarily the right way (although I like to think that you can hardly go wrong with a strategy game and some baked goods).
I called this post “Gerig is a Scary Place” because routine is safe. English Hall is not scary for me. Leaving English is. I worry that I’ll try to be friends with people and they won’t really want that friendship. Or I compare myself to others and wish I was as popular or well-liked as they are. Even hanging out in Gerig, I wonder from time to time “Will they think I have a crush on someone in their hall or that I don’t like the people I live with in my dorm or that I’m a super secret assassin-ninja-agent sent from English to kidnap their key members for an exorbitant ransom and the secret to their awesomeness?” Maybe they will. Maybe.
But is it worth it to try anyway?
I’m going to go with yes.
I can’t realistically get to know everyone at Taylor. I wouldn’t want to. It would spread me too thin, making every friend a Facebook acquaintance instead of someone I could really talk to. But I can get to know some of my neighbors a little bit better. I can stop asking people, “How are you?” as I pass and instead take time to listen. I can take a different path and see what happens.