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As an Admissions Counselor at Waynesburg University who’s also an alumnus, I have the privilege of sharing my experience daily with prospective students and families. One of the most often asked questions is a simple one: “What’s your favorite part about Waynesburg?”

Easy.

It’s the people.

I know, I know…cliché, right? But my parents always taught me not to lie, and if I responded with any other answer, I’d be lying. So many just good, quality people who truly embody the mission of the University walk the campus each day, and that was my favorite part about being a student and remains my favorite part as a staff member.

When I talk about my student experience, I always point to how much the faculty and staff truly care about the holistic development of each student and how much they pour into the students’ lives. Students can gain so much insight from watching faculty and staff members live their lives each day, but yesterday, for this staff member, the roles were reversed as the actions of a group of students showed me what it truly means to be a part of the Waynesburg University community.

On my way home from the Admissions Office last evening, I saw a little boy, maybe four or five years old, running on a sidewalk just off campus. At first, I didn’t think much of it. Spring had just begun a few hours earlier (although it didn’t much feel like it), and the kid just wanted to be outside. Heck, I was planning to strap on the running shoes, myself, as soon as I got home.

Then, as I was almost past the boy, I noticed his feet—shoeless. All he had on was a pair of white socks. I drove a bit further and realized there were no adults or older siblings around, either. It was then that my eyes shot down to my driver’s side mirror. In the reflection, I could see the boy attempting to flag down the next two cars that passed by. Neither stopped. At that point, I immediately proceeded to the intersection straight ahead and navigated a U-turn.

I pulled up next to the boy, rolled down my window and asked if everything was OK. It became apparent right away from the boy’s reaction that everything was not “OK.” Through tears, he forced out that his mother wasn’t home, he didn’t know where she was and he didn’t know where to go. When asked if he knew exactly where home was, he could only point in a general direction.

As I decided upon a course of action, another car pulled alongside me and asked the same question I had posed to the boy: “Is everything OK?” I explained the situation, and immediately that car, along with a third vehicle, pulled off to the side of the road in front of me. Out jumped a group of four Waynesburg University students, two guys and two girls. The girls made a beeline straight for the little boy, putting their arms around him and wrapping him in an extra sweatshirt. (In my own ignorance, I had nearly failed to realize that the boy was donning just a t-shirt in temperatures that had been dropping throughout the day.)

Moments later, we made the call to University Security, who relayed our message onto the Borough Police. Within minutes, a police officer arrived to provide assistance, followed closely by two University Security personnel.

The group of students, however, did not seem to want to depart. They hovered around the scene, wanting to ensure that the boy was returned to where he needed to be. Only after I explained that University Security had assured me they needed no further assistance from us did the group of students find it permissible to leave.

As I made the short trek home, I couldn’t help but be proud of how the group of students reacted to the situation. And I couldn’t help but draw the parallel to Jesus’s parable of the Good Samaritan in the 10th chapter of Luke. Just like the priest and Levite passed by the robbed, beaten man in Biblical times, so too did two cars pass by the lost little boy, even as he was pleading for their assistance with the waving of his arms. If I hadn’t realized my initial mistake and turned around, however, I have absolutely no doubts that the group of students would have come to the aid of that little boy, much like the Good Samaritan thousands of years earlier.

How blessed, I thought, I am to work at a University where the students possess such strong morals and Godly character.

What’s my favorite part about Waynesburg?

Easy.

It’s the people.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_P10405671.jpgThis week I did something I've never done before, something that I, and I'm sure many people out there, have wanted to do, even if just to cross it off their bucket list: I climbed a mountain. Not just any mountain, either, but Slieve Donard, the highest mountain not only in Northern Ireland's Mourne Mountain range, but in the country all together. I wasn't originally going to; my friends and I just wanted to go into the Mournes, because they're pretty and I know songs about them. The woman at the visitor center pointed it out, though, and informed us of its status, and we thought, "why not?" 

Well, there are a good many reasons "why not." It's exhausting and takes forever, and just when you think you're almost there, you round a bend and see a whole other portion you couldn't before, and you can almost hear the stupid mountain mocking your pain. Then you get to the top and have to hang on tight because you feel like you're going to be blown clear off the other side. I don't know if I'd ever had quite so clear a demonstration of the "fear of God," before, but the peak of that mountain painted a pretty spectacular analogy for me. By the time I was done I was spent. I had blisters, my feet were no longer positive they knew how to function properly, my legs felt like jelly and I was starving. 

And it was incredible. 

I think anyone who has ever done something like this can liken it to a life lesson or something philosophical. There are certainly enough songs out there to prove it (ex. "Climb Every Mountain," "The Climb," etc.). Most people have "mountains" in their lives and it's nice to hear songs that encourage you through them.  However, actually pounding the pavement, so to speak, definitely gives you a fresh perspective, (as well as a good deal more respect for the characters in Lord of the Rings). 

Standing on the top of Slieve Donard, I felt a lot of things. I wasn't kidding when I said I was afraid I was going to be blown away, because I was legitimately terrified; the wind was quite literally pushing me around. At one point it actually knocked me over. I wasn't kidding about the "fear of God" comment either. As petrified as I was of it, I was in complete awe of the gusts' power, and really, genuinely grateful for it the last few feet up the slope, because I wasn't positive I'd make it if not for that push.

 I also felt wonder; I don't think you can look down at the world from that high and not experience a sense of wonder. This earth is truly a beautiful creation, and this island is a chilly little paradise as far as I'm concerned. One of the biggest things I felt, though, was a crazy sense of “Wow." Wow, look at this; wow, I'm on top of a mountain; wow, wow, wow, I did it, I made it. On top of all of that, too, I knew I couldn't have done it without a little help; I kept sending silent wee prayers up periodically, and I couldn't help but send up one of thanks when that strong wind forced me up that last stretch. I hate to sound cliché, but it felt like one of those life lessons to me. I didn't think I could make it, and with His help, I did. I think that says a lot. 

So yes, it was hard; yes, it was grueling; yes, I was genuinely afraid I was going to die. There were points I wanted to stop and go no further, but I am forever going to be grateful that I kept going. Because, at the end of it all, it was amazing, and so, so worth the trouble. 

 

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Matthew 5:43-45- “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

Many heroes of the faith have given me encouragement over the years – Elizabeth Elliot bravely ventured into the village of Auca Indians who had killed her husband. When she shared Christ with them and they saw her passionb2ap3_thumbnail_Matt-5.png and courage, they knew there must be something powerful in the God she served and the whole village came to know Jesus. Gladys Aylward led hundreds of children to safety in occupied China during WWII. Eric Liddell, of Chariots of Fire fame, left fame and fortune to re-enter the mission field and died in a concentration camp in Japan.

 But few are as brave and inspiring as St. Patrick. He spent six years as a slave in Ireland before escaping back to his home in England. When he became a priest, though, he realized God was calling him back to the land of his captivity. Those were the people who most needed to hear about hope and freedom through Jesus Christ. Patrick countered the prevalent Druid religion of the region and taught locals using objects they could understand. The most famous is his use of the shamrock to explain the Trinity. Just as the shamrock has three equal leaves to form one shamrock, the Trinity has three equal persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who make One God.

My question for you today is, are you prepared to love your enemies as St. Patrick did? Are you willing to lay down your life not just for your friends but for those who challenge you and everything you stand for? Are you willing to stand up for Jesus Christ even if it could cost you your life?

 

I leave you with St. Patrick’s Prayer:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me.

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

 

Blessings,

Rev. Carolyn Poteet

 

cpoteet@waynesburg.edu

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First semester freshman year, I anxiously sat waiting for my second class of the day to begin. My Survey of Music course had just let out and as I trekked across campus, gasping for air as I climbed the hill to Buhl Hall, I wondered what else was in store for me.

High school was over. College was a new animal.

I took a seat in the front near the door, not wanting to draw attention to myself, but still wanting to get as much as I could from the lecture. As students filed through the door, I pulled out my fresh notebook, a mechanical pencil and my agenda, making sure everything was labeled properly (some things wouldn’t change) and that I had what I needed.

When I finally looked up, a man shuffled into the room whistling as he closed the door behind him. He set his things on the desk in the front of the room and then turned around to write his name on the board.

“My name is Dr. Bob Randolph,” he said over his shoulder as he wrote. “But you can call me Dr. Bob.”

When I enrolled at Waynesburg, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do with my life, so I declared my major as “exploring.” During freshman orientation, I met with my given advisor. As we sat across from each other she showed me my schedule for the semester, which had been put together based on my interests and general requirements. Her red pen pointed at each line, creating a small dot at the beginning of each course name.

·Survey of Music

·College Composition I

·Environmental Biology

·Fiat Lux

When her pen settled on a line that read “Introduction to Creative Writing” a sudden surge of excitement took over. I was going to write.

Dr. Bob turned around and gave a reassuring smile to the room full of unsure freshman students, settling on my own nervous face for a moment before continuing. He told us what the class was about and the more he talked, the more drawn in I became. We were going to write fiction, poetry and a small memoir. I could not wait to get started. The first thing we would write would be a flash fiction story—500 words, due the following week.

I became intent on creating a suspense filled award winner. The idea for the story came quickly and I feverishly typed out the plot line. My story was about a young woman whose husband had gone to war and died, or so she thought. She mourned over their pictures together, remembering the day she watched him climb onto the plane. One stormy night she wandered out to their old creaky barn and found a letter from him. He was alive. They weren’t safe. He would send for her.

As funny as it all sounds to me now as I look back on that semester (and that ridiculous story), my freshman self was intrigued—emotionally invested. Full of new ideas and concepts for stories, I had found a passion. By the middle of that semester I was in my advisor’s office proudly declaring my major as English, creative writing.

What I have learned as a creative writing major at Waynesburg is far more than how to write a compelling story. I have learned how to incorporate new ideas into otherwise tedious writing, I have learned how to show emotion in a way that relates to those I am trying to appeal, and I have learned how to write grammatically correct, effective pieces of work.

Story-telling, I have found, is an art form. Through it, we become inspired, we feel and we dream. Creative writing is more than writing poetry, fiction and nonfiction. It is observing and understanding the world and those in it; it’s sharing experiences with people from various demographics; and it’s coming up with new ways to explain the things that affect us all as human beings.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Kayla_Painting.jpgHow art courses at Waynesburg have changed my life (as a non-major).

1. The first time I picked up a paintbrush was my sophomore year at Waynesburg. It was the fall term and as I scoured the thin book of offered courses, I stumbled upon an acrylics class, open to all majors. Aside from some sketching here and there, I had never put much effort in to becoming an artist; all I wanted to draw were horses. I had spent my childhood drawing horses until I nearly mastered them. They ran, jumped and reared on the page, never accompanied by a scene of any sort, just a ghost on a sheet of printer paper. Simply put, I couldn’t draw anything else. It was difficult for me to envision myself painting, but I had heard the professor graded based on progress not talent (friendly to anyone with a true interest in learning) so I joined. In a few short weeks, I found myself consumed in the technique of putting paint to canvas— the smooth, gentle glide of a brush and the act of finishing my own work-of-art. It was after my first painting that I (reluctantly) called myself an artist.

2. That fall semester my sophomore year proved to be a challenge, yet, when my feet found their way to the art room time stopped. I sat at the long table with my easel, pushing my brush against the canvas sheet, and I felt my mind lift from the haze of upcoming exams and papers. I couldn’t get enough of the freedom I felt when I was covered in paint, leaving fingerprints on the things I touched. When I realized just how therapeutic painting had become for me, I decided to order more supplies and bring the studio to my own kitchen. The sink, table and floor quickly became their own masterpieces, dripping with paint to my mother’s disliking, while I worked on my paintings. I allowed my thoughts to drift off to happier places where the world I envisioned was the world I became a part of, not the one I actually lived in.

3. Art, I have found, is not always realistic or the popular definition of beauty, yet as I stand in front of a sculpture or a painting with its odd limbs and colors, suspended in midair, I find myself lost in it amidst a lack of understanding. I wander toward it, staring, hoping I’ll have that “ah ha” moment where it becomes clear what exactly is in front of me. I never do, but the interest remains. I continue to look, hopelessly. Questions fill my mind, pressing me to think outside of my normal worldviews. Picasso, Warhol, Kandinsky, what dreamlike places did you travel while you transposed your thoughts to paper and paint to canvas? I want to know where you’ve been.

4. There are nights when I look at the blue and orange sky shifting to pinks and purples over tree branched mountain tops and I want to scoop them up and spread them over a fresh, white canvas, letting the colors mold into one another as they kiss the corners of the page. I want to mark that image forever in my mind, hang it on the wall or mount it in a gallery for the world to see the things I have seen in that very moment. Sometimes I grab my camera to keep that image tucked away, somewhere, for a second glance, but what I have found, through my art courses, is nothing can quite capture an image the same as an artist’s eye.

5. When I think about the peculiarity in the nature of a piece of art, I think of God and His own designs. What inspires God to mold, cut, mix and scrape his creations into their final forms? With infinite amounts of color, materials and tools, the possibilities are endless, yet he chose to create me. What greater, peculiar, humbling love could a person ever encounter?

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