To those of you who know me: Hello, friends!
To those of you who don’t: Hello, friends! It’s lovely to meet you. My name is Lauren Dawson, and this is my fourth and final year at Concordia.
But what does that really mean, and why does it matter? What is Concordia, and why are four years here different from four years anywhere else?
I had to write a poem about it in one of my classes recently, and I want to share it with you here. For you seniors, I’m hoping this will give you a chance to reflect and to sort through your own college experience. For you freshman, sophomores and juniors, I want to paint a picture for you of the journey you’ve embarked on, so that whatever you do, however you grow, you can do so with purpose.
So buckle up, Bulldogs. Here we go.
What are you?
You are not a place – no place can work what you work.
Not a time – everyone is given a different portion.
Not a person – you contain a mosaic of souls.
You simply are, and you answer, and you ask,
“Who are you?”
And students walk your halls unaware that they’re
a part of something larger, something grander, something
that stretches out across the entire horizon
connecting them to people everywhere;
You’re a cross-section, Concordia.
A slice of eternity.
It begins with the soil, as everything does.
From dust we are – clay in a potter’s hands.
We, like the trees, are rooted in it, in this clay, in this
growing in wisdom and stature as we drink up
the water; the wine.
This is the human foundation.
But we, your students, came to you with our own foundations,
our own histories and ways of being,
absorbing nutrients from our own soil that was
rich with hopes and dreams and aspirations.
And you somehow managed to blend those two foundations.
You wound Truth and our purpose together into so tight a cord
that we couldn’t remember how to separate them.
In this we made our beginning:
In who we were and who we hoped to be.
In gravel roads and a winding creek and cobblestone streets and a parade of flags.
The soil gives way to the surface.
A foundation is only a beginning, after all.
The soil of meaning gives rise to action.
The soil of gravel roads and cobblestone gives rise to
buildings and classrooms and dorms.
From the soil shoots rise up, people
eager to learn and to love.
They grow fast,
and hopelessly, hopelessly intertwined,
inseparable from the soil and inseparable from each other,
rising on this surface where we live
and have our being,
This surface where we are not alone,
Where students learn the richness of another’s smile,
Where classrooms are filled with successes and mistakes
And we ask ourselves questions too big to answer
And we learn the value of community
And others take up others’ crosses.
But our gaze does not stop at eye level.
It continues up, always up,
always to bigger things,
things that we can’t reach or understand,
things that are dazzling, that are frightening.
We direct our prayers upward
and always seek for ways to rise higher,
as we were told.
So we worship upward,
toward the sky,
knowing that we will someday rise past the clouds and the stars,
from the soil of Truth to the surface of Vocation to the sky of new creation.
And we move, too,
from the soil of our past to the surface of our present to the sky of our future,
from the soil of Seward to the surface of Concordia to the sky of the world.
Because Concordia is not a nest.
It is a windowsill, a waystation, for birds on their way
and we must fly.
These gravel roads helped us find our footing
And that tangle of plants planted smiles in our hearts
But we must look up to the sky. There is more.
“The world awaits. Serve it.”
This is your message, Concordia.
So what are you, Concordia?
More than just the prelude to a life.
You’re the combination of soil, surface, and sky,
A cross-section of all that is,
A landing place for birds with songs they must sing.
You’re a journey.