Spring is here! It's warm, it's sunshiny, and it was the perfect day to go driving with the windows down and moonroof open. Driving where? It's a school day.
After morning classes, and after chapel (the pastoral intern from last year was back today to speak!), I took a ride down to Emmaus to learn about their sound system from Kurt, an Ole grad from two years ago and the current director of Worship at the church. The task at hand: "practice", or in a sense, "prove myself", on the sound board by mixing a vocal and piano, then later a guitar. That sounded harsh; it was more so that I felt a need to prove myself to myself before I could feel ready to jump in as one of the rotating sound technicians for Sunday morning worship. And I suppose showing someone else that I know how to use a sound board didn't hurt at all. My conclusion, I have the sheer knowledge of what the knobs and buttons do, I just need to develop my art of mixing, which will only come with time and practice.
My Photoshop skills are also in need of refinement and practice. Why? Because I talked to my graphic designer for Putter today, and it turns out he won't be able to do it after all. Surprise. This means I'll have to take it on, in the midst of homework, papers, and everything. At least there's break next week, maybe I can get it all done then. Panic.
Tonight, though, the panic can wait. It's a night of celebration for me: I'm done with classes and homework for the week, and tonight is a fancy ice cream social for the students on the Dean's List, which I made for last semester (only the second time in my college career).
There was a special event in Ytterboe tonight put on by CAN (the Christian Activities Network) in place of Thursday Night. I only made it for the last 10 minutes or so, and that time was spent in quiet prayer and meditation. Walking out of Ytterboe turned out to be somewhat opposite of the serenity I'd left: I watched as a car drove up onto the sidewalk toward me (as they are apt to do, it's actually not that unusual on this particular stretch), but what was "surprising" was to discover the people in the car were none other than Ashley and Kyle, just stopping by to pick something up from someone. We talked for a while before I went on my way to deliver chocolate and visit with a couple good friends in Mellby, one of whom has a huge paper to write for tomorrow (I gave her the chocolates to help her stay awake through the night), and the other has a Norwegian midterm. Naturally we ended up talking for a long time about the class and test instead of her actually studying for it. Like I've mentioned before, I love the random long talks with friends.
The most powerful story of today I've deliberately saved for last. Let's go back in time some number of hours, to about 4:00 in the afternoon.
Some number of weeks ago I'd agreed to drive one of my CS friends to the airport today. There's nothing surprising about that (other than coming back: the 35E exit from Cedar always sneaks up on me). But sadly, there was a surprise lurking as I waited in my car outside Ytterboe. Remembering that I'd not yet received a confirmation from another friend about dinner tonight, I decided to make good use of my waiting time and call him to find out for sure if we were on or not. It's generally not a good sign when someone answers the typical "how are you today?" with a not-so-typical "I've had better". As I found out, his fiancé's father had just died this morning after a two month battle with cancer. How does one respond to that? Prayers, as well as my "if you need to talk, I'm here" offer, just didn't seem like enough, not for this.
Suffering is my favorite topic of study in theology. But it's a much different situation when the question of theodicy comes into full swing in your real life, or the life of a friend. One thing I've concluded, though, is that suffering gives the person not suffering an opportunity, not only to pray, but to reach out, to be a small light in that tragic darkness. Grieving and recovery take time. Period. There is no getting around that. Still, in the midst of grief, observers are given a unique chance to step into the ring, stop observing, and do something to lift that person up, even something as simple as a smile or a hug. It may not seem like much, and let's be honest, to some people it won't be much. For some people, though, that smile or hug, that sign of affection, that reminder that someone else cares, can make a difference. I don't live under false pretenses of thinking it will take the pain away; it won't. But it may lessen the pain, ever so slightly, and that makes the smile, or the card, or the hug, or whatever, worth it.
I waiting outside Ytterboe to bring someone to the airport, but I'm sure God put me there for another purpose: so that I could go inside and give my friend a hug.