Arriving at college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I failed to truly understand what makes me the way I am. I was living amongst the shadows of shallow Christian faith and hiding behind a persona I had created through self-induced popularity and my group of friends.
In my mind, I had everything I wanted in what I considered to be the greatest place on earth, Berne, Indiana. I was from a family of successful business owners and I had few worries in Berne, a place that blanketed me from valuing different opinion and ways of life. From religious to political views, I had never been exposed to life outside of my comfort zone. I desperately needed a change of scenery. I needed Goshen College.
I came to Goshen College in 2015 thinking it would be reminiscent of Berne, Indiana. A place of faith where I could go to class and practice baseball. But, what I was welcomed with and have experienced in my first year and a half at GC has proved beyond my expectations.
At GC I have found a culture of difference — tabbed by the liberal arts college located where the leafy maple grows as a “culture of service.” I have encountered different ways of thinking, and have been introduced to issues far greater than myself.
I have been exposed to issues such as social justice and environmental sustainability that were seemingly non-existent in the pre-dominantly white and conservative structure of Berne. The conservative ideals and political affiliation I developed in Berne have quickly and rightfully been questioned by nearly all on this campus.
A conversation with me would communicate that I cherish diversity and actually believe in climate change. And believe it or not, I fully understand the turmoil surrounding the candidate I choose to support. A conversation with me would better help members of the GC community and beyond hopefully understand the importance of sitting in the middle, awaiting a challenge.
I have always believed that one’s political views represent much more than the candidate he or she chooses. The way one sees the world is very telling to how he or she interacts with others and more often than not, one will surround themselves with like-minded people that reinforce their interests.
But, what would it look like if one was surrounded with completely opposite interests or views? We would most certainly live in a world of understanding. We would be forced to listen to other’s opinions and challenge our own intuitions. Unity and peace would be much more attainable if we simply took the time to listen.
I understand this is a world much easier to imagine than to live out, but I refuse to sit around and watch my fellow brothers and sisters live in anger and frustration. So I have started to act. I have decided to focus on the relationships I currently have and conduct myself in a way that allows me to meet those of differing opinions.
Prior to my recent realization of the importance of developing relationships outside of like-minded people, my goal was to find people like myself. By being a member of the baseball team, I took one step on campus and was greeted with 30 immediate like-minded friends. My teammates represent both struggle and victory, a safe haven of vulnerability.
But, despite the impactful relationships I have developed with each member of the team, I understand that my teammates also represent the opposite of my relationship challenge.
Therefore, I decided to use my position to reach those outside my circle of like-mindedness through my other interests: faith and writing. At the start of my sophomore year at GC, I felt called to found and lead a Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter on campus. I recognized a faith-based campus with little faith-based activity.
My goal and the goal of this nationally-acclaimed organization is to empower those on this campus to live out their faith through growth in understanding and service. The book of James has taught members to put their selfish desires aside and become humble, while the book of Matthew has taught needing ears to love others as ourselves.
Lastly, I challenged myself to use my passion for words, communication and media, journalism, to reach others. Journalism has helped me develop a deeper form of thinking, allows me to escape the world and fall into others. Journalism opens barriers and sparks conversation.
It also lets me learn more about myself as the power of writing touches me deep inside. Without journalism, my understandings of a wider set of opinions and issues would never have been developed, and the challenge to myself of reaching those of different walks of life would fail miserably.
Despite the steps I have taken, I realize that in just over a year I will cross the floor of the Roman Gingerich Fitness Center to receive my diploma, and I will begin the next chapter of life. I will pack my bags for the final time and leave the confines of what has become my new comfort zone.
The relationships I built on this campus may never be the same, and I will be forced to find myself once again. I will develop new skills and my passions may transform, but I can always thank GC for showing me that different is necessary to find purpose and the value of relationships will never change.