College life doesn’t enjoy a good reputation these days. As the pundits tell it, university students are uniformly spoiled and self-absorbed, too coddled and sensitive to handle the demands of real life.
But my wife and I saw something different when we moved our son to campus a few weeks ago so that he could start college. I’ll share it here as a nod to the students who don’t get much attention because they’re just working hard, doing their best and trying to live out the values good parents gave them.
On the day we moved our son into his dorm, the outside temperature was 100 degrees. We weren’t looking forward to lugging his things through the heat.
But the administrators had arranged for older students to help us, and they’d refined their job to a science. Wheeling carts to our SUV, the young men and women quickly unpacked our son’s belongings and trucked them to his room, even plugging in his small refrigerator so it would be running when he arrived.
The workers were warm and welcoming, not complaining a bit despite the sweltering day. The team that helped us, which included men and women of various ethnic backgrounds, worked seamlessly together, giving the lie to the notion that Americans are too divided by gender and race to embrace a common task.
By the end of the day, the crowd had dwindled, and only a handful of workers was needed to help the stragglers get settled. Even so, at dusk I noticed that the team captain who had helped us that morning was still going strong, smiling as he helped the final set of freshmen to their rooms. Because young African American men are so often reflexively assumed by our culture to be troubled, I feel compelled to mention that this stalwart student who had braved one of the hottest days of the year in service to others was black.
After unloading our son’s stuff, we drove to a nearby big-box store for last-minute items, including a small rug for his room. Three hours later, after having lunch and running several other errands, we realized that we’d forgotten to load the rug from the bottom of the shopping cart into the car. I doubted we’d ever see it again.
“Have faith,” my son told us. “I bet someone turned it in.”
Someone had, in fact, taken the time to bring our forgotten purchase to the service desk so that it could be reclaimed. On such a busy shopping day for returning students, anyone could have nabbed it, but they hadn’t.
As we departed campus for the drive home, we left our son in the company of a lot of young people I’d be proud to claim as my own.
Maybe, the next time we assume the worst of college students, we should take my son’s advice: