4: People over Paper

4: People over Paper

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

People over Paper

One’s friends are that part of the human race with which one can be human.

~George Santayana

Everyone back home told me that one of the nicest things about college is the people you meet. They all assured me that I would make friendships that could last a lifetime. I would always smile and agree. Frankly, before I left for college, I really didn’t care. I was going to school far from home, and I wasn’t exactly thrilled about meeting new people. My plan for college was to get in, get my degree, get out, and get on with my life as fast as I could, not to establish an elaborate social circle.

I applied for every dorm except one, in which six guys live in two small connecting rooms. The rest of the dorms had doubles. As things turned out, I ended up in the dorm I didn’t apply for — the ancient and revered Slight. All my roommates seemed to be okay guys, but I didn’t really try to get to know them. I spent most of my time studying in the library and didn’t get back to my room until I was ready for bed, which was considerably earlier than my roommates. No matter what song my roommates blared, or what action-packed movie they were watching, I would be tucked in my bed with earplugs and a shirt wrapped around my head, usually entertaining unpleasant thoughts about my roommates.

I have always been rather quiet and have never been able to make friends easily. My first few weeks at college reflected this. Since I wasn’t trying to make friends, I would always forget names after I met people. When we passed again and they called out my name, I would reply with an embarrassed wave and a weak hello. I would try to keep any conversations to a minimum since I felt awkward for not remembering their name and was too proud to ask them to remind me of it.

This is how things went for the first month or so. After a while, things started to change. A couple of my roommates would try and keep me talking. Soon, these two roommates and I started becoming fairly close. We began going to the cafeteria together, exercising together, and meeting in the library to study. At one point, a girl asked me what room I lived in and seemed surprised when I told her I was from Slight #12. She went on to say that she knew a lot of guys who wished they lived in my room, because it was such a cool group of guys.

During this time, I also made a commitment to remember other people’s names. Whenever I would meet someone I would try and address them by their name at least three times during our first conversation. This helped, and now I was at last trying to build relations with other people. I began to rely heavily on the people God had sent into my life and I started viewing their friendship as a gift from Him.

These feelings culminated one night when one of my roommates invited me to listen to a fellow roommate practice with one of our college choirs. I almost opted out, as I had a lot of homework to do and was feeling pretty tired, but in the end I agreed. Later that evening, my roommates and some other friends picked me up from the library to drive me across campus where my roommate was to perform.

It so happened that this was my birthday, but I had kept quiet about it. So you can imagine my surprise when we entered the recital hall and the 120-member choir began to sing “Happy Birthday” to me. After the choir finished the song, we left and allowed them to get on with their practice. Back at the dorm, my friends threw a small party for me, complete with a card and cake.

I was completely shocked to find that my roommates had arranged for the choir to interrupt their practice to sing me “Happy Birthday” and that they scraped together their funds to throw me a party. I felt totally unworthy of their kindness and proud to be able to call them friends. It was then that I realized that college means more than the piece of paper you receive at the end — it’s an education in both life and people. Thanks to the friends I made, I understood that the people back home were right all along.

~Travis Shelley

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