College. Katharine is going to college. In fact, she has already begun. She took eight hours of credit in summer school. Now she is ready to move into the dorm full time (she moves in on August 26). She’s going to High Point University, a beautiful and rapidly growing United Methodist school in NC.
Katharine is the youngest of the four. Adam turned thirty-four this month. How did that happen so fast? Last month I’m holding his tiny little hand as we cross the street, and suddenly he’s thirty-four and a therapist in a counseling practice. Alison is twenty-nine and about to have a baby (meaning I am about to become a grandfather – another sobering Tempus Fugit moment). Zachary is twenty-eight and for several years has been employed at a Methodist retirement community. When I came here, he was still a kid just starting out in the Navy. They grow up so fast... too fast. Which brings me back to Katharine.
For you Marble folks who read these blogs, you probably remember Katharine when we moved here. She was a skinny little sixth grader with braces. She was never still for a minute, and never quiet for half a minute. She and Arthur Caliandro fell quickly and deeply in love, which was a blessing to her and to us. Anyway, that little kid is gone. In her place is a tall, lovely young woman who is about to be living on a university campus.
I pick on Katharine a lot, and she eagerly reciprocates. So, interspersed with all the lectures you give your kids when they are just about to embark on a life without your being there to chaperone them, I also offer advice that is pretty much tongue-in-cheek. For example, she asked me once, “What do you think is the most important thing I will do at college?” I answered, “The most important thing you can do is to fall in love with a rich boy!” She laughed. So did I. On the other hand, if he is also really nice and moral and kind... but, I digress.
When I gave some serious thought to her question, a number of answers came to mind. For example, I want her to be open to learning. I phrase that very intentionally. I do not want her simply to learn, but to be open to new ideas, to new ways of looking at life, to new horizons that she has neither seen nor imagined before. That way her college experience can take her past information to wisdom.
I want her to sense the riches and richness of diversity. Her mother and I are thrilled that Katharine and a beautiful young woman of a different race chose to room together. To be sure, our daughter learned a lot about the beauties of diversity at Marble and in New York City. But she did her high school work back in a small community in North Carolina. It was a wonderful high school which prepared her well for college. However, the majority of its students were very much like one another. That is not the case on a college campus. Now she has reached the age where she is able to learn some of the lessons that perhaps she was too young to fully appreciate or even understand when she was here in New York. She will live with people from different backgrounds and different ethnicities, people who do not look like her or share a similar set of memories, people who can enlarge her understanding of culture(s) and broaden her sense of values and enhance her philosophy of life. By knowing and living in relationship with a wider circle of friends, she will grow and become a more mature adult. And so I desire for her to discover in a new way the blessings and beauties of diversity.
I want her not merely to become educated, but also to determine why that matters. Put another way, I want her education to equip her to do something that makes a difference in the world. If that results in her finding a career that is rewarding financially, I will be happy for her. But I will be even happier for her if the educational process positions her to find a life with meaning – and that sort of life is ultimately never measured by what you earn, but rather by what you give away to make the world better place. That’s what I was talking about earlier when I referred to the difference between information and wisdom. Wise people find meaning by investing themselves in making life better for others. I desire that kind of wisdom for Katharine and for all our children.
Finally, I want her college years to be happy ones. Mine were. In fact, I loved campus life so much that for many years after graduation I would feel a distinct sense of homesickness every autumn. In undergraduate school, in seminary, and later on in grad school, to put it all too simply, I had a blast! I worked. I studied. I complained about how much I worked and how hard I studied. But at the end of the day, those years were uniquely happy. I want that to be the case for our daughter. I want the college experiences and the friendships to create a blanket of wonderful memories in which she can wrap herself throughout all the years to come. I want her and all her children to be happy.
Page and I will be there on August 26 when she moves into the dorm. At some point, I will probably have to restrain Page from trying to move in with her. I will feel a little nostalgic, a great deal of pride, and maybe even a little envy. She will begin one of the best chapters of her life. I hope she will not miss the beauties of even a minute of it while she’s there.