With the onset of fall comes lots of “new:” residence halls, roommates, notebooks, class schedules, professors, subjects, conversations, friends, and – especially for those of us in academia – opportunities (think fresh start and clean slate, the two best parts of a new semester!).
Living just a few steps from campus, this time of year brings the familiar ritual of greeting new neighbors, many of whom are St. Thomas students, of course. We recently had the opportunity on our block to greet a family that bought the house across the street from ours. One member of the three happens to be a St. Thomas alum. During the very first days of settling herself, husband and new baby (his name is Thomas – I’m not kidding) into her new home and neighborhood, she happily pointed to one of her favorite things about her new address, something not at all new but rather unmistakably familiar: The bells of St. Thomas, ringing familiar and glorious melodies in the background of her new life.
Isn’t it interesting how new always comes to be recognized as such only in contrast to what is old? That what’s familiar is most comforting in simultaneous opposition to what is novel? Without that which is now and fresh, how can we appreciate that which is past and known? We can’t. And that’s just plain old cool when you think about it.
One of my own beloved parts of fall is meeting a fresh batch of students, each sitting eagerly (yes, I believe each is, whether they show it or not) in his or her chair awaiting a new learning experience, a new subject, a new topic, a new paradigm. When my new neighbor, who happens to also be an “old” friend, reflected on how much joy the bells atop the library awaken in her memories of being a student and wandering across the quad, I was reminded why fall brings most of us such grand gladness around St. Thomas. It is new while at the same time, ahhh … wonderfully familiar.
May you – on campus or off – enjoy both what’s new and familiar this fall.