But it does matter, somehow.
We have these thoughts, these experiences. We think about writing about them. And then we stop, thinking “Is everything a post? Never mind. It doesn’t matter to people what I’m thinking.”
But maybe, this time, it does.
Sitting in a room. A moderate size room on a college campus. A room with big windows, white boards, display cases, a sign that says, “Trustee Board Room.” And 20 high school kids. And 30 parents. And innumerable admissions personnel. And a few faculty. And one faculty member standing behind a lectern, reading, not looking up from his manuscript.
The college really wants these students. The student have great test scores. They have great grades. They have lives full of music and sports and drama and service. And dreams. They have lives full of dreams.
The college wants these students enough to pay for them. They are “Trustee Scholars.” They get good money. By coming to this day they may get even more. A handful of kids from this day and another day like it will get enough money to go to classes for free.
And so the college brings these students with the hope of free classes. The college tells them to read a couple essays. The college tells them to come and discuss those essays with a small group from this group. The college tells them to be interviewed by a faculty member. And the college makes them sit in a room and listen to a faculty member read from a manuscript.
Ah, but what a manuscript. He is forgiven reading. He is forgiven not looking at the students, except occasional glances.
It is a memoir of inquiry. It is a course description for life. It is a commercial for a major in humanities. It is applied literary analysis of “The Odyssey.” It is an invitation to and incarnation of the quest. In one forty-five minute lecture, it is everything that faith and teaching and liturature and marketing and teaching memior can be.
And for most of the time, tears gather in the corners of my eyes. Sometimes, they escape and I capture them with my fingers.
I can be forgiven, I suppose, these tears in the back of the room. One of those students is our daughter. She will be at this college with these students in seven months. That, for a sentimentalist, is cause for crying.
But it’s not why I cry. Not this time.
As I sit in the back of this room, I see me. Three decades ago, I would have been one of those students. High test scores, good grades, active in music and service. Two decades ago, I would have been that faculty member, articulate, thoughtful, challenging.
The faculty member takes us on an odessey of our own, as he speaks of a quest for home. He describes the ache of Odyssus on a beach, far from home, long into his journey. He describes the years of wasted time. He tells stories of people who have decided.
And I think, as I look at these two views of me, of wasted time.
Not that what I have done these years has been a waste. Far from it. I have been involved deeply in three precious lives and deeply, but too briefly, in another. I have been able to shape the lives of others with words, with touches.
I know this.
But I, more than you, also know of the waste, the moments spent on nothing. Not on working, not on resting, not in delight, but on nothing. I, more than you, also know of the waste, the energy spent on worry, on avoiding the expectations of others. I, more that you, also know of the waste, the easy B, the easy laugh, the easy tear.
And at fifty, watching this thirty-something challenging teen-somethings, I long for home. Not a home of geography or biology or family. I have those and am grateful. More than I acknowledge. Not a home of faith, either, for I have that in a relationship with both my Creator and my Redeemer and my Friend.
But there is something more that today I remembered. Again. A glimpse of something. A reminder of how it feels to wrestle well and carefully with faith and learning, how it feels to not slide by. And before it disappeared this time, I wanted to mention it to myself. And to you.
Because I don’t have nearly as much time to waste as I once did.