Valentine’s Day was approaching. Campus was in the grip of winter; its tree branches hung bare; the sky, as gray as gunmetal.

University can be a lonely place, bereft of family, old friends, sweethearts.

I was asked to come to chapel and speak on loneliness.

Before I arrived, some students got the idea to reach out to others, especially foreign students.

“We may not have a sweetheart,” they mused, “but the foreign students are far from home and must be really lonely.” So they advertised free rides on Saturday to Wal-Mart for shopping needs. They went down dorm halls inviting those needing transportation. They also invited them to chapel.

I arrived on Thursday. Over supper they told me what they’d done.

We walked over to chapel and there in row upon row were brown faces of Pakistani Muslims, the yellow of China, the black of Africa’s equatorial regions, the white of Scandinavia.

America’s universities boast over 12 million students. And a surprising number come from other nations.

I told them of Melville calling loneliness “that damp, drizzly November in my soul.” I explained it was a depression brought on by a lack of meaningful relationships. Then we looked at the story of Zaccheus, a short unpopular tax collector who climbed a tree to see Jesus.

We thrilled together at Christ’s reaching out to connect with others in His incarnation. Then we came away with the means that we also could befriend others. Asking questions. Affirmation. Getting involved with others in pain. And goal setting.

Afterwards a guitar player with long curly hair strode over to me and said, “When I saw you here I said to myself, ‘What’s that distinguished older gentleman doing here? This won’t work!’ But then you stepped out and connected with us. And I really…we really needed to hear what you had to say. Thank you for coming. And…keep coming back!”

Isn’t God good?!

I want you to see what I see.

Thanks for helping me do what I do on campus.

Love,

Stephen

"The university is the clear-cut fulcrum with which to move the world. More potently than by any other means, change the university and you change the world." Charles Malik, past president of the UN General Assembly

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