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This song has been in my head most of the afternoon. Not sure why this song popped in my head on this day...but, then, as I looked out my office window I began to think about the emptiness of our campus. With classes out and students on break, it is eerily quiet in the student center, on the quad and even around town.
I have occasionally heard 'townies' (as we used to call them when I was in school and I guess that includes me, now) complain about the students. I have experienced some of those frustrations, too, for sure. There were times during move-in and move-out weekends that I sighed with disgust as I navigated traffic. My wife and I, while living in Pontiac, once made the mistake of going to Station 220 on a parent's weekend and found ourselves crammed into a noisy dining room. And, yes, I have felt disdain when I find nowhere to park or students walking on a street or through a parking lot in a way that leaves it impassable.
Yet, the experience of being on campus is predominately a good experience, for me. Walking across the quad takes me back to my own days of going to class (or not going, as the case might have been). When I go to lunch at the Bone Student Center and see the students and feel the energy of the place, it energizes me. When I meet with students over in the Campus Café at Heartland I am amazed by the depth of community that exists there. Most importantly, being on these campuses makes me feel younger than I really am.
I suspect that having a major University and Community College has had a profound affect on this community in ways we will never even know. I think, though, it keeps us young and vital (and thinking) in ways we wouldn't be otherwise. First United Methodist Church, I am very sure, is affected. Perhaps we are affected, because of our proximity, even more than most of the surrounding community. For this pastor, I am most impressed by the possibilities that exist here on campus in communications, programs, and worship: for which most United Methodist Churches would be envious.
I am thrilled to live in Normal, to be in a community with Heartland, Illinois State, and nearby to Illinois Wesleyan (in Bloomington). I think that the students and faculty (and wider community) have enriched me already and I look forward to the ministry to come! So, today, as I look outside my window and listen to a Peter, Paul and Mary song playing on a loop in my head, I wonder with longing, "where have all the students gone?"