Spend more than five minutes in any informational meeting for Wheaton College prospective students, and it’s almost a guarantee that you will hear the word “community,” especially if it is immediately preceded by “intentional.” These are labels the college loves to give itself. The words invite feelings of warmth and acceptance, no matter who someone is or where he or she comes from.
But are they true?
After almost four years at Wheaton, have I found these words to be simply that – words? Or is there a deeper truth behind them that superimposes itself into the fabric of the college as a whole?
The answer, as you might have guessed, is a resounding yes. Yes, they are true words. Yes, they are more than just words. And yes, there is definitely a deeper truth behind them.
Of course, this wouldn’t be published on Wheaton’s blog if it wasn’t true. That seems obvious, but I really am writing what I believe. These are not hollow statements of half-truths that I have sometimes experienced during my time at Wheaton, yet have found lacking at other times. Rather, Wheaton is built upon a community of believers who all care about their Lord, first, others, second, and themselves, third. This is an undeniable reality that I have found just as true, if not more so, on my six-hundred-and-fiftieth day of class as I did on my very first.
Let me explain.
During my time at Wheaton, I have witnessed and experienced students and faculty, alike, who are willing to drop everything to come to the aid of someone else. Students will delay their own homework to talk with someone about an aspect of life he or she is struggling with. Professors will give up valuable time from their schedules to eat with students and discuss anything the student desires. Professors keep open-door policies, as well, giving up their time to meet with students.
At many schools, it becomes an “every man for himself” type of environment where professors are only thinking about promotions and tenure, students only think about their own grades and relationships, and the school majority have very few things in common. Wheaton is different. From athletes to conservatory students to art students and everyone in between, the focus is the same: living life like Christ commanded.
This common thread creates little communities that naturally form within grade levels or people of common interests, but it also means that each of these communities provides a very natural fit within the greater landscape of the college as a whole, similar to a jigsaw puzzle in which each piece fits perfectly into its neighbor.
For example, a couple nights ago, I was sitting on the couch of my living room talking with my roommates. I was comparing myself to others and was frustrated about the seeming inconsistencies I perceived. Of course, I was wrong to do so, and my roommates told me as much. Throughout the course of our conversation, Jesus and our faith was brought up countless times. We consistently reoriented ourselves back to the Bible and what God was teaching us.
After the conversation, I went up to my room and prepared for bed. Fifteen minutes later, from his own room, my roommate texted me a picture of his devotional book of that specific day. It pertained perfectly to the conversation we had been having. I read it and was touched by its power and relevance.
A few minutes later, the same roommate entered my room. This was surprising for two reasons. One, it was past one o’clock in the morning at this point. Two, my roommate is well-known for never staying up past eleven thirty at the very latest. He is akin to Cinderella whenever the clock even begins to near midnight.
Even so, he entered my room and wanted to talk more about what I had said. He told me he had been thinking about it ever since our previous conversation had ended and he wanted to share a few more of his thoughts. I listened intently, amazed at his selflessness to continue thinking about me, despite having plenty of other things on his plate. This scenario is not unique to my roommates, either. I have heard identical experiences from countless other Wheaton students across campus on a wide variety of occasions.
Thinking back on this example, it is unique for many reasons. For starters, the first conversation is not one that will happen on many other campuses between five twenty-two-year-old males. God is not as much of a prevalent part of what every student believes. At Wheaton, it is different.
Another example, is my experience with Wheaton’s men’s soccer team. I was a member of the team during my freshman and sophomore years and it was the most supported I have ever felt on any athletic team I have ever been a part of.
Everyone on that team wanted what was best for the team, even if that meant having someone else playing over them. This was simply an extension of the selflessness that permeates from Wheaton’s overall culture.
The problem with something as cliché as “community” is that everyone has a different meaning associated with that word. We all think something different when we read it on the page. I can tell as many stories as I want, but a prospective student would still not be able to fully understand it until he or she experienced it for himself or herself. Visits are helpful, and can certainly give interested students a small taste of what Wheaton’s community is like, but only by personally joining Wheaton’s community can someone truly experience all it has to offer.
Trust me, as a prospective student, if God directs your path to Wheaton, it’ll be worth the wait.
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