Saturday, August 27, 2011

Gifts We Give One Another in a College Town.

Bloomington has been busy this week. Folks down here call it "Move In Day." It used to be the single day when IU students descended on the campus and town. Now their arrival is spread out over several days. You can feel the town -especially along Kirkwood- coming alive during the days of late August. Every day there are more students on the streets and in the stores. There is a kind of "buzz."

Even spread out the return of the students fills the streets and slows down traffic. Getting from east to west (or vice versa) in Bloomington is almost impossible. People from other towns of 80,000 would never believe this and residents of New York City will laugh but our world down here feels like a "mini New York."

I've seen a lot of parents looking weary. Getting your son or daughter's things up to a room on the fifth floor of a dorm, or squeezed into an apartment, and doing the hard work (I know...sometimes it is blessed relief for all concerned!) of saying goodbye to your college student, is hard work.

As I navigated my way through traffic around College Mall today, I realized there are two things these two population groups -students and townspeople- need from one another. First, college students need to be welcomed. I don't mean just because they and their families pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy each school year. They need to know we are glad they are here. They need to know we are glad to share our streets and sidewalks and neighborhoods. They need to know we are praying for them.

College students need to give full time residents of Bloomington a different gift: respect. When I was here as a student I heard some of my classmates refer to townspeople in patronizing or negative ways. Students often, by the way they drove their cars or talked in restaurants or mistreated their apartments and dorm rooms, communicated a "we're better than you and we'll use all of this the way we want to use it." There are a few who act spoiled and have a demanding attitude. (Maybe it isn't an act!) People here are great people, many of them work hard at the university or local businesses, and they deserve the respect of the students. It would be super cool (a phrase a red-headed friend in Elkhart often uses) if students came to IU committed to leaving the place (the town...the campus...their apartments) better than they found it.

"Live responsibly," Paul says in Romans 13 (The Message). Live that way not just to avoid punishment but also because it's the right way to live.

Classes start on Monday. Bloomington is humming. Here we go. Let's take good care of one another, okay?

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