A priest once told me that most of his peers had about six speeches in their repertoires - that essentially each homily was a re-working of those same sermons. I have a handful of favorite themes too when I speak: College is not what entertainment portrays; take care of one another; we are here to support you; don't break our stuff; we want to save you from yourselves; and 'you belong here.'
Imagine my glee, recently, at seeing the "You belong here" slogan stenciled in paint on a couple campus parking spaces. I'm not suggesting someone stole my theme. Indeed, I have to admit that I was worried that it was a campaign from some right-wing religious group. I don't want to be an unwitting pawn. To make sure I tried to find out more on the internet. No luck. All I could really find is that it is a song by Anberlin, who I thought was a past wife of Henry 8. Or a sleep aid. Well, my search led me to the Anberlin song, which led me to another group called Paper Tongues, which has a song called Trinity, which reminded me I had a blog post to write. In any case, I have to wonder who on earth took the time to do this "vandalism" and why. But I kinda like not knowing.
Of course I have to be against random stenciling on parking spots as it is definitely a violation of our stenciling policy, which I feel duty-bound to uphold. I want to be clear, in no way am I endorsing stenciling on parking lots at Trinity.
I totally endorse this stenciling on the parking lots at Trinity. This isn't graffiti, because I understand it. It isn't someone's attempt to affirm to others that they are parking in their own personalized spot.
Whether it is prospective students, current students or alumni, hopefully everyone here finds a sense of place and belonging. It can be hard. As we conclude residential life student staff selection, as we come out of fraternity and sorority pledging, as the student commencement speaker is chosen and as officers are elected to student government posts, I am always reminded that some aren't selected, some aren't chosen, and others aren't elected. I hate that. Amidst all of the affirmations that the winners are receiving, the rest are left to wonder - do I really belong?
My answer is a resounding YES! You are the ones that the message is particularly for. At some point everyone doesn't get what they want. (Except for Molly Malloy, who I went to high school with.) Another day looms ahead. I am constantly reminded of the exceptional people that make up this outstanding community. Our students are talented, bright, clever, and caring. These qualities bind them together. Our students also, at times, have doubts, fears, and failures. This community looks out for each other and exalts the successful while supporting the down-trodden. At any given time, through the highs and lows, we all ask, "do I belong?"
I don't think it can be said or sung or stenciled enough. As we look at marketing our campus, developing a new strategic plan, and finding our unique niche in higher education, we seek a theme that will never get old. I think we need not look too far for inspiration. Glance down once in awhile - and maybe it will hit you. It's simple: You belong here.