This morning, I went to church. I recently switched churches over the winter, and have been blessed by meeting many people from my new community who have already helped me so much this semester (whether they know it or not). As I was leaving the service, I greeted one of our priests. She gave me a hug, as usual, and even though there were many people behind me in line, asked me how school was. “Are you done with school yet?” I shook my head. We’re on the cusp of finals week. It’s crazy, as per usual, even though credit-wise, this is one of my lightest semesters yet. However, I have a final project/presentation/paper due every day this upcoming week, so there’s been a lot on my mind as I’ve been finishing up classes and (trying) to get ahead on homework. I told her no. “Finals week is this week, so just one more week left.
It was a simple question, and simple answer. But she made the sign of the cross over me as I edged towards the doorway – blessing me in preparation for the week ahead. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but that blessing stands out to me because it wasn’t a sympathetic “Oh no – good luck! You’ll do great!”, or a dismissive “You’ll be fine”. It was an understanding gesture, knowing that I need extra strength, but also a reminder that the same strength doesn’t come from me, but rather, from Christ. This is so important, and that’s why it lingers in my mind this evening as I try to focus on studying.
Perhaps, my friends, when we encourage our college students, we should reevaluate how we encourage them. Perhaps we, as Christians, can encourage them in Christ, instead of reaching out with empty sympathy or dismissive (sometimes hurtful) words. And maybe every college student doesn’t need what personally impacted me, but I think it’s an important reminder that our encouragement to those in college should not fall into the rote statements of confidence that students receive outside of the Church. We minister to others by showing them the love of Christ, so do this for your college student that you support, especially during this difficult season that we call finals. Maybe then, we’ll actually remember the love that you expressed – because I promise you, we’re not going to remember that you wished us “good luck”.