We often aren’t what our memories remind us to be.  But this time, I’ll enjoy the exception.

I am no conspiracy buff.  However, when a friend of mine wrote some comments about an event that we both attended recently, I was spurred into action about a conspiracy that we both shared.  When I attended my alma mater, I was greeted with a situation where I often found myself wondering (even aloud) how easy the world seemed to be compared to what appeared to be the norm with people after their golden age during college.

Socially, most people tend to develop strong relationships during their university days.  Many of us have had that great memory of someone leading a large group of freshmen into a lecture hall and hearing something similar to the following:  “Look to your right.  Now, look to your left.  One of you will not be here at the end of your four years.”  That concept is an eye-opening proposition to students who often had 4 years looking at the same set of faces in almost every class together.

When I attended the same university with my friend, whose blog may be found here:  Reflections on the Spirit of the Age, we were thrust into a very unique situation.  When students attend a college together, there is an artificial but very tangible connection that can form.  People begin holding dearly to one another for support, camaraderie, guidance, wisdom, and the like because they have stepped out from the safety of their safety nets for the first time.  Everything conspires as it were to drive people to make quick and lasting connections.  Some, for mere days and weeks, others for a lifetime.  That is why the experience drives us to sororities, fraternities, social groups, religious organisations, and the like.  For Hunter and myself, we found a great refuge within the people of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.  Both of us, I am sure, would not be who we are without that organisation and the wonderful friends we have because of our time there.  The connections are significant and life-changing for both of us.

When you’re lost in a city you’re not familiar with, looking for the most basic of things and failing, anyone who is a friendly face will make a bond that is deeper than most.  I am reminded of the time that I was walking through a very crazy airport in the northern midwest, and I  barely overheard someone having a very difficult time explaining with a thick Ukrainian accent that they were lost.  I being a moderate Russian language speaker at the time, walked right over and introduced myself in Russian, and proceeded to receive a big bear hug from them.  (This, by the way, is not the typical response to a stranger in their culture.)  I was instantly a friend, and together we were until our planes tore us apart.

That is what comes naturally to most people in a crisis situation.  Make no mistake, when people begin to attend the university, it’s a crisis situation.  A person’s whole world view becomes challenged in a way that cannot be quantified.  It doesn’t happen normally in life, nor as my astute friend put,

“The world that we inhabited at that time has passed away.  It will never exist again.”

It is that way because it’s an artificial storm.  People put together in that time and place have little choice other than to bond together in ways they would not accept as normal outside of the situation.  Yet, it happens to us all to some degree.  Remembering back, I can see myself getting to know people who came across my path in ways it would take months and years longer had we not been together in college.  For some reason in the world outside of that educational crucible we don’t allow ourselves that honesty and openness… I wish I knew why.

My only thought is about this:  why do we change when we leave?  Perhaps it is the realisation that we only had a small amount of living that came before college, and thus it was easy to share.  Perhaps it is too difficult to explain, the realisation that we had a large amount of living that we went through during our time as students and you had to be there.  I don’t know, really.  My thinking is that it is the conspiracy of the natural order of things.  Without some sense of impending change or crisis, human beings do not choose vulnerability as their default stance.  People don’t band together unless there exists a cause or focus.

As Hunter remarked, Intervarsity allowed us to share in a special time in our lives that way.  We had a cause and a focus that brought us together, our relationships with and in Christ.

Like being dropped into a busy airport barely speaking the language only to hear a friendly voice, we experienced a great gift.  The ability to strip through the nonsense and become very real and connected in a short amount of time is not what most of us do.  For much of my life however, my approach to people was very much like that of those who are in college.  When you get used to being in places for a short amount of time, you learn that those small amounts of time matter a great deal.  So, you don’t let an opportunity pass you by to make a bond.  Strong and real connections with other people are things we all crave, but we often make things so very convoluted to get to that point.

Hunter’s comments challenge me as my life becomes more rooted and more permanent, to not lose that gift, that desire to be connected with others.  It will not go unnoticed, my friend.

We spent time with friends and reminisced and reconnected.  It reminded me of how easy it used to be to make real and lasting relationships, and how very blessed I am that so these wonderful friends are still tethered to me after these many years.  Intervarsity was extremely special to me during that time.  I have people who I consider family stretching from my home in Florida to the other side of the world because of people choosing to be real, vulnerable, and connected.  Here’s to bucking against the natural order of things, and for those oh so special times when all we had were the friendly faces of the people in the storm with us.  I love the idea that we share a friendly conspiracy about the age of our youth…

Let’s continue to share the conspiracy, eh?