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Flowers Never Bend With the Rainfall

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

My armpits dripped with the stinkiest of all sweats: that of the “I’m-really-stressedout” variety. My heart raced, and I struggled in vain to fight back tears. Here I was, the day before Thanksgiving break during first year, intent on finishing a paper due the next day. My pink and purple folder containing all the meticulously edited drafts of said paper had gone missing.

I cried. I swore. I threw my lobster-shaped pillow across the room. Finally, as it dawned on me that taking my frustration out on my bedfellows was not very productive, I called my friends Calvin and Boyer for help. They came over, dried my tears, and searched all around campus with me until we finally located the folder, tossed lazily on the floor outside the dining hall, below the coat hooks.

Looking back three years later, I’m reminded of what a strong support network I have at Grinnell. During every rough patch, big or small, I’ve always had a swarm of Grinnellians to provide a sympathetic ear, a kind heart, and a limitless supply of hugs. However, I didn’t realize just how remarkable of a community Grinnell was until something tragic actually did happen, something whose seriousness greatly surpassed that of a misplaced folder.

On Thursday, December 13, 2007, around 8 p.m., like many Grinnellians the week before finals, I was sitting on a couch, laptop situated firmly on my lap, feverishly typing away at one of the many papers I had due over the course of the coming week. Then I received The Call from my mom. She had been walking laps with my dad at the Orland Park Sportsplex when he went down. And that was that. My dad had died.

I do not wish to describe the immense shock that swam over me, or the grief that still clouds my thoughts and daily activities. Rather, I would like to focus on how much my fellow Grinnellians have reached out and supported me in so many ways, making these difficult times infinitely better.

Within 20 minutes of the ill-fated phone call, my good friend Charlie was at my side. Soon after, my friends Meredith, Liz, and Henry joined us on the couch for an evening of handholding, hair-stroking, and everything-will-be-all-righting. I fell asleep in the arms of Mer and Liz.

When I awoke the next morning, two other friends, Ben and Sarah, were waiting for me downstairs, bearing organic chocolate bars from the bookstore and giant hugs. Later, Colette showed up with a delicious veggie wrap from Comeback Café for lunch. As the hours passed, more and more people kept dropping in: running buddies, neighbors, classmates, my cross country coach. Although the mood was somber, being surrounded by all these caring people made it feel almost like a house party in the middle of a Friday afternoon. I was the guest of honor, blubbering in my bathrobe, but letting myself be distracted and entertained by the amazing group of people gathered in my living room.

And although the wake and funeral services took place the weekend before finals, two friends (and one alum) made the four-hour trek from Grinnell to my Chicago suburb to attend. Not only did they bring their loving presences, but they also brought an enormous care package of cards, letters, cookies, and even a jar of a homemade tomato-based substance from Grinnellians back at school. The tomato-y jar actually brought some much needed humor to the afternoon as it allowed me to sit around for quite some time with my aunts and cousins debating whether the jar contained salsa or soup. (I found out later it was salsa. And it was delicious.)

The loving gestures continued to reach me even from afar. My housemates and I had been planning a holiday party to hold as a finals week study break, but due to my extenuating circumstances, I was unable to attend. In my absence, Meredith lit a candle at the party in memory of my father. She also provided all the guests with scraps of paper for them to write me notes of love, encouragement, and strength. When I returned to campus a few days later in order to retrieve the rest of my belongings for winter break, I was greeted with all these wonderful messages.

It’s been a rough couple of months, to say the least, but I am grateful I have so many amazing people in my life to remind me of all the good in the world. My dad once told me, “Erin, we only get so many moments like this.” Now I understand more than ever how right he was.

Erin Sindewald '08 is an English major from Orland Park, Illinois.

Nor4East

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

Hall: Norris. Floor: fourth. Side: east. The most basic way to summarize my location on campus is Nor4East. Norris Hall may be at the far end of campus, but it has its advantages: A/C and spacious rooms. Although you might feel isolated up on the far end of North Campus, you soon realize you’re not the only person living there. Most of my floor-bonding experiences include the first-year girls on my floor. We get together and engage in rituals with some of our friends in which we learn new things about each other and do random fun activities.

Floor bonding experience #1. Time: 10 p.m. A circle of college girls can be spotted on the east side of Norris fourth floor. Our conversations cover our lives and differing interests, which include playing the violin and writing. A common interest for the Gossip Girl TV show leads to the wild decision to watch episodes and then go on a late-night bakery run. With determination to eat fresh baked goods in the middle of the night, we stay up. Some of us take a nap that extends into a nightlong sleep. Others resist the temptation of sleep by munching on junk food.

At 2 a.m., we confront the morning breeze and walk downtown. The synchronized stoplights serve as a guide to Main Street and finally to the Danish Maid Bakery. A sketchy alley leads to the backdoor of the bakery, where Bill the baker greets us and shows us a selection of delicious calorie-stuffed pieces of dough that will contribute to our Freshman 15.

Floor Bonding Experience #2. Time: 7:30 p.m. My roommate and I raid a whole bunch of hall whiteboards with Expo-marker invitations to a floor-wide Sunday Movie Night. The movie is I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, a comedy to make us laugh and forget about our homework. With a great turnout and my roommate’s dorm-baked cookies, we indulge in a great time of laughter and leisure. It’s nice to have a tray full of cookies and a movie to distract us from our homework-addled minds.

Floor Bonding Experience #3 and others. Time: 6 p.m. With future plans to continue bonding, our floor’s student adviser (SA) comes up with the idea of having a floor dinner each week. Meeting in the fourth floor lounge each Friday, we walk over to the dining hall. One Sunday night, a trip to Tropical Sno (a snow cone stand in town) ends prematurely with an unexpected “Business Closed Due to Illness” sign. Our SA suggests several other options, but finding an open business at 7 p.m. on a Sunday night is difficult. After going from one closed store to another we end up eating Dairy Queen desserts that fit the cold windy weather.

Our floor bonding sometimes leads us all the way to the dance floor at Harris parties. There you can usually spot the Nor4 girls dancing to the rhythms of hiphop or ’80s tunes. My floor is the perfect combination of fun and community. It is simply great to belong to Nor4East.

Coming Out as a Republican

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

Prior to my arrival at Grinnell, I was brought up on the basic principles of conservatism — I’m from a “Republican” family. For those of you who can (secretly) relate, Grinnell College can seem quite intimidating, right? After all, it is the college where more than 80 percent of students voted against Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, a candidate who repeatedly wins elections with at least 70 percent of the vote. Grinnell is a liberal bubble in the middle of the moderate political landscape of Iowa.

That’s why when I came here, I decided to keep my political affiliations to myself. I figured there was no sense in starting an argument where I would end up being completely outnumbered. The last thing I wanted to do was make enemies for myself. And I wasn’t really sure what I believed. Sure, my dad listened to Rush Limbaugh and watched Fox News, but what did I know about world politics and how much my beliefs were tied to those of my father and mother?

Less than five minutes after I unpacked my last box on move-in day of my first year here, another first-year from down the hall “outed” me as a Republican. We were introducing ourselves and saying where we were from when she, from out of nowhere, looks at me and says, “You — Bush or Kerry?” I just stood there. I had no intention of lying to anyone about my political affiliations, but I wasn’t expecting them to come up so soon. I went ahead and answered, “Bush?” and then subconsciously expected everyone to attack me and rip out my insides. But as you can see, I am still here, and many of the people who first heard me say “Bush” are still some of my closest friends today.

My initial plan to be discreet about my politics had been shot out the window. The result, however, has been anything but disastrous. After taking an active role in the Campus Republicans group, I’ve realized there are many others at this college who share some of my ideologies (including my roommate), but they thought they were the only ones as well. Grinnell prides itself on being an open-minded and accepting campus, and it is, for the most part. However, I do believe at times people forget that diversity of thought should also fit in here. Sometimes it is still a bit intimidating to speak your mind about politics when students and professors alike make it the norm to speak out against Republicanism.

However, I have found a haven in the Campus Republicans. Our members don’t really focus on endorsing candidates in local, state, and national elections. In reality, it would probably do the candidates more harm than good if we did, seeing as how Kerry carried more than 90 percent of the vote on campus. Instead, our primary goal is to create an environment where non-liberals can discuss politics and not feel threatened or silenced by the majority.

Looking back, I’m glad I have been open about my values and beliefs, since it has forced me to challenge them and make sure they are what I truly believe. And for the most part, Grinnell has been open to me and other conservatives on campus — except for the occasional liberal spy at our meetings and that shoe mark on my car where my Bush-Cheney bumper sticker once was.

Derek Bates '08 is an English major from Montezuma, Iowa.

A Film Festival Spectacle

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Let me tell you a little about Titular Head, Grinnell’s own homegrown film festival. Now don’t get the wrong impression. We’re not sophisticated filmmakers. We don’t watch in silence and clap politely at the end. And we definitely don’t submit the movies on time.

To give you an idea, some recent successful Titular Head movies have been about a fearsome rivalry between two racquetball players, dancing dining hall staff, a campaign to elect our student government president as the new U.S. president, and a tale about a student’s epic struggle to become the best streaker on campus. Raucous cheering and catcalls accompanied the screenings, making the event even more fun. For the past 32 years, students and a few brave faculty and staff have squeezed into the limited seating to watch not so much a film “festival,” but rather a rare spectacle that celebrates this unique campus community we all know and love.

It’s important to note that Titular Head wasn’t always a film festival. It actually got its start in 1976 as a short skit show in conjunction with Grinnell Relays, another fine Grinnell tradition still happening each year. Who knows if the founders had any idea of what exactly they were creating? Even the origins of the name have been lost to the mists of time.

During the 1980s, camcorders hit the scene and folks started submitting videos instead of practicing skits. Gradually the tradition began to move away from the Grinnell Relays, eventually evolving into a short film show traditionally held on the same day but later in the evening. With improvements in technology, film quality also got better and archiving became a possibility. A new era of shorts began in the late ’90s with the creation of consumer digital editing software, and since then we’ve seen the iMovie pushed to its limits.

This spring, the student body celebrated the 32nd Titular Head. We handed out nearly all of our tickets within the first hour they were available. Eager fans filled the lobby of Harris Concert Hall and crammed into the bleacher seating for the opportunity to scream, cheer, and boo 23 films over the course of two and a half hours. All that enthusiasm — from the audience, judges, and filmmakers — contributed to another successful chapter in Titular Head history.

Titular Head is a great show, but there’s more to it than good laughs and big crowds. I’ve had the privilege of helping out for two years now, and I’ve discovered that the films allow you to really note the incredible community and quirks of Grinnell. Regardless of some of the bad films and bad hair in the ’90s archives, this event has consistently documented our excitement and senses of humor, and really illustrates the unique vibe of Grinnell.

But honestly, I can’t give you that a good idea of what Titular Head is all about. Ask other people around on campus, search YouTube, and get a ticket for next year. Even better, grab a camcorder and make some local history. Come be a part of just one of the many spectacles that makes Grinnell spectacular.

Dan Neely '09 is a Psychology major from Chicago, Illinois.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Being a Student Adviser

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

Twelve first-years. Twelve! While staff training week taught me how to handle pretty much every conceivable conflict I might encounter as a student adviser, or S.A., it left out that little part about any potential pandemonium that could arise when 12 nervous first-years begin their Grinnell experience on Read Second. Suddenly, my self-doubt about being an S.A. rose. My welcoming presence would play a key role in getting the college career of my first-years off to an acceptable start and convincing parents that leaving their kids in Iowa wasn’t such a bad idea.

Thus, I decided the success of move-in day would depend primarily on whether I could keep myself from looking like a complete idiot. It began awkwardly. Rolling out of bed at 9:30 a.m. for my 10 a.m. shift, I half-heartedly grabbed a towel and walked shirtless across the hall toward the bathroom, only to be eyed uncomfortably by a parent and sarcastically asked by more-awake staff members already on duty, “Hey Mark, have you met any of your first-years yet?” I was off to a stellar start.

Looking vaguely respectable, I began greeting first-years and unloading SUVs. Being self-conscious, I found this both exciting and potentially dangerous. One must establish an initial friendship and learn cool things about the other person, even though periods of Facebook stalking have already revealed many of the desired answers.

Besides, appearing and acting friendly meant people might not pass judgment at my moderately creepy door decorations. While a lot of S.A.s play it safe by putting stupid laws or Samuel L. Jackson movie posters by their first years’ names, I went all out with phallic buildings as my floor theme. Because nothing reassures nervous students and parents more than pictures of buildings that look like private parts affixed to every door in the hall. Well, maybe just the students were reassured.

I still needed something to convince myself that I could actually succeed at this S.A. job. Everyone seemed nice, but were they having fun? Did they like me? I finally got an indication during that afternoon’s floor meeting, with the help of one of my better ideas in recent memory. My vehement disdain for icebreakers of any sort forced me to rack my brain for something fun that could be done within the confines of the Read Second hallway. My solution? Wheelie chair races.

With Europe’s “Final Countdown” blaring from my room and boxes scattered across the floor as obstacles, I divided my first-years into teams of four, forced them to learn the names of everyone on their team, and began the extravaganza. Much to my relief, they seemed to be having fun. Apparently, crashing into one’s fellow floormates in a wheelie chair is just as enjoyable as I thought.

After that, any nerves about floor difficulty subsided. All 12 of them went to dinner together, and ended up hanging out on the floor for much of the night. The next day, group volleyball again brought everyone together.

There, I received one final indication that I wasn’t going to fail miserably as an S.A. when I got smacked in the face by a particularly powerful spike. It was embarrassing, but reassuring nonetheless. The subsequent laughter and my failed quest for revenge made me realize that maybe 12 first-years wouldn’t create the chaotic scenes I had envisioned, and that my S.A. experience wouldn’t be so nerve-racking after all.

Mark Japinga '09 is undeclared and from Holland, Michigan.

Check Out My New Crib

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

Issue: 

 Fall 2007

Author: 

 Nmachi Jidenma '09

Every morning when I wake up and stagger to the bathroom downstairs in my lovely new Cowles apartment, I do so with a great degree of pride and satisfaction. I love the wooden furniture, I love the stairs, I even love the smell. When I walk, cook, lounge, dine, and whine, I do so with the same degree of comfort as I would at my home in Nigeria. I love the novel and the crisp, the new, and the exciting, and my Cowles apartment feels like all that and more! In many ways, I feel privileged to be able to live in such style as the stereotypically poor college student. But who am I to complain?

Though I live in one of the smaller apartments, it is huge compared to the living accommodation I had last year in the dorms. The apartment has a sitting room, a kitchen, a very spacious bathroom, and four bedrooms. Other perks include a TV with cable access, a DVD player, and lots of comfy furniture, perfect for both studying and relaxation. It’s great — I get an off-campus experience without ever having to worry about paying rent or taking out the trash, and I still live close to all the campus hotspots. If I want, I can isolate myself within the four walls of the apartment; but at the same time, I know I can enjoy the comforts of communal living with a quick skip over to visit my friends who live on North Campus.

In addition, the Harris Center is just a stone’s throw from my apartment, which makes weekend activities particularly exciting. On any given weekend night, my suitemates and I can often hear the blaring music emanating from Harris. Some might consider this a negative, but I love it. From the comfort of my apartment, I can gauge the vibe of Harris parties just by listening or by peeking to see if the people hanging outside the entrance look appropriately merry and gleeful. When I’m feeling the vibe, I make the quick trek to Harris to mingle and unwind. When I’m not, I simply indulge myself in one of my favorite guilty pleasures: yet another marathon of America’s Next Top Model on MTV.

Most important, it does not hurt to have the additional attraction of being able to show my apartment off to friends or share it with the rest of campus through forums such as this publication. Thanks to my new accommodation, I have the added privilege of feeling like something of a campus celebrity, just by inviting the rest of the world to “come view my crib.”

Next semester, just before room draw, I intend to ask Grinnell’s housing office if I can live in my apartment again next year. I can’t imagine my senior year without my lovely new living space. I would love to have another year of watching cable TV without the additional stress of having to reserve a hall lounge, of cooking with my suitemates in our very own kitchen, and of checking out the vibe of weekend parties without ever having to get up off the couch.

Nmachi Jidenma '09 is an Economics major from Lagos, Nigeria.

 

Religion in the Cornfields

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

I’ve been a Unitarian Universalist all my life. I’m used to people asking me “What’s UU?” all the time, so by now, I’ve got the speech down. But what I didn’t know was that by coming to Grinnell, I’d have to ask myself the question in a whole new way.

I’ve had to (and chosen to) sort through new issues arising from contact with new experiences and different people: UUs, Christians, Pagans, Jews, agnostics, and others. Tons of different religious groups exist on campus, but even beyond the groups, people always have something to say or ask about religion. And being around all these new people makes you think about where you stand, and why others choose to stand differently. So all those late night talks/really-anytime-you’re-interested talks really do happen because we’re a curious, open, and opinionated bunch.

I joined the UU group right away when I came to Grinnell and started co-leading it my second semester. This year, I still lead, and I’m a part of the worship team we’ve created. We gather over Thursday night dinner every week. We share news about our weeks, light the chalice (our religious symbol), sing some songs, and discuss issues that are important to us. We have a small and lively group and we’ve even made puppy chow (a college staple containing Chex cereal, chocolate, peanut butter, and powdered sugar).

I’m also a member of other religious groups on campus. I attend the Grinnell College Christian Fellowship events, and I’ve gone to some of Chalutzim’s (the Jewish student organization) Friday night services. I am part of the Religious Life Council, which includes a representative from each religious student group on campus. We host events throughout the year to promote interfaith dialogue at Grinnell. I am also in the pre-seminary group, because I plan to become a minister at midlife. I’ve consistently found many venues to explore religion here. The groups are both intentional and open, meaning people consciously gather to reflect and act on their beliefs, and at the same time they’re welcoming to others who see things differently.

You may have heard that Grinnell is a pretty liberal school. And that’s true, but it certainly doesn’t mean that people here don’t believe in anything or don’t have values or don’t like to talk about religion. We tend to engage each other about what we believe and why, on religious issues and non-religious issues alike. We aren’t afraid to be challenged or vulnerable, and we are also committed to avoiding ignorance. So we ask questions and seek out dialogues in order to understand.

People always tell you that you learn both in and out of the classroom, and since being at Grinnell, I’ve realized it’s true because we make it so. Learning certainly does go beyond the classroom, and even beyond the student groups, because we engage each other in ways that are both purposeful and comfortable. So we keep on asking not just “What is UU?” (fill in the religion of choice), but also “Why do you choose to be one and how does that impact the way you act in the world?” Then we all keep on learning.

Amen to that!

Ariel Herman '09 is an Independent major from Oak Park, Illinois.

Opening up with Grinnell Monologues

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

I am not a theatre person by any stretch of the imagination. I have terrible stage fright, I cannot memorize lines whatsoever, and once, I even threw up while giving a presentation in front of my high school class. So when my friend begged me to go to the kickoff meeting of Grinnell Monologues during my second year, I thought, “Okay, I’ll go to make her feel more comfortable about being there, but no way am I going to have any part in this performance nonsense.”

Grinnell Monologues, or GMons, as it is also affectionately known, is a student-run group on campus that writes and performs its own original monologues centering on themes of sex, sexuality, gender, relationships, body image, and more. Given the intimate nature of the performance content coupled with the still fresh in my mind high school vomiting memory, one could see my hesitation about joining such a group. Little did I know how much this first meeting would alter my perspective.

The meeting began innocently enough. We sat around and answered the basic questions: what’s your name, what year are you, and so on and so forth. But then we got a little closer to each other when the group leader asked everyone at the table, “What was your most embarrassing moment from a Grinnell hookup?” Excuse me, I thought, is that something you should even be asking? I didn’t think so. But to my surprise, everyone answered with very truthful and earnest answers, and I really admired everyone’s openness and acceptance of what others had to say. When it came to my turn, I shocked myself by answering with an embarrassing story of my own. So much for keeping my guard up. But I no longer felt it was necessary to do so. And I showed up for the second meeting.

The point of starting our practices with personal questions was to get the creative juices flowing. Hearing a response from one member of GMons might spark an idea in another member, and poof! A monologue is born! By the end of the semester, we all had come up with great ideas and were ready to perform. Some monologues were comical, others were serious, and some were emotional, but all of the performances were honest, insightful looks into topics that hardly ever get talked about in the open. Sharing a story about how uncomfortable a woman is with her large breasts, or how a man hates to be identified as a heterosexual alpha male, all in front of an audience, is not easy to do. However, stories such as these open doors to dialogue about body image and gender, doors I think deserve to be opened and dialogue that needs to be heard. I believe that everyone who walked away from watching that performance had an altered view about something discussed in the show.

It is probably hard to believe, but even after all my resistance to performing and getting up on stage, I became so enamored with Grinnell Monologues that I served as co-leader of the group the following year. Working with these students was incredibly rewarding because I got to listen to their stories and encourage them to be as truthful and sincere about their own stories as the leaders from the previous year had done with me. And the applause at the end of the performance? That was the best part.

Stephanie Rosenbaum '08 is a Spanish major from Glencoe, Illinois.

One Enchanted Evening

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

I spent spring break of my third year in a car, driving across the country. Dan, a student at Williams College, and Sara, a theatre major at the University of Washington, met me in Grinnell. We got stuck in some snow in Nebraska, took a stunning route through Sedona, Ariz., ordered Chinese food from a beach outside of San Francisco, and got Sara back to Seattle just in time for classes.

Dan and I booked it on the drive back to Grinnell. Needless to say, we were exhausted when we finally pulled up outside of Russian House. We weren’t excited to find the kitchen overflowing with students who coerced us into joining them for rice and curry. I excused myself as soon as I could, going up to my room and leaving Dan to fend for himself.

The next day was no different — activity filled the house from dawn to dusk. Dan and I wanted to make a nice dinner, so we invited everyone to join us, planned the menu, and went grocery shopping. However, when 7 p.m. rolled around, my housemate Suyog and his friend Aashish had taken over the stove. They seemed confused when we reminded them of our dinner plans. Frustrated, Dan and I spent the evening wandering around town.

After all of our wandering, we didn’t get dinner started until nearly 10:30 p.m. But then the whole evening took a turn. Everyone congregated in the kitchen once again as Dan and I started the pasta. A group of students played cards at the table. Three friends of mine, all from Nepal, began tossing bottle tops into a can at the other end of the room, fluidly interchanging English and Nepalese. Avram, another housemate, unexpectedly walked in, giddy after a week in Las Vegas.

By the time we finished cooking, the dynamic seemed like something out of a Woody Allen film — people sitting around with wine glasses, eating fettuccini and roasted peppers, talking about spring break adventures and Bob Dylan. After dinner, someone suggested I play my saxophone. I couldn’t see why not, so I went upstairs to get it. When I came back down, the living room was lit by candles. I improvised jazz standards for nearly an hour while people talked and mingled.

The evening ended just as unexpectedly as it began. Suddenly someone realized how late it had gotten and stood up to go. Within minutes, Russian House was quiet again. I didn’t get to bed until nearly 4:30 in the morning.

I’ll always remember that night as one of the strangest and most unexpectedly beautiful evenings that I’ve spent in Grinnell.

Catherine Wagley '07 is an Art major from Spokane, Washington.

Community

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

It was like trying to believe in Santa Claus. Was it really true? Would she remember? Would she really get up early on a Tuesday, walk from her cozy off-campus house all the way over to Rose Hall, in the cold, and cook breakfast — just so I could have a little extra time to sleep? I knew I had found a community in the Grinnell College Christian Fellowship (GCCF) — a community that cared about me like none I had known before — but really, nobody expects anyone else to walk half a dozen blocks in a winter sunrise just to fry up a few eggs for one stressed-out first-year. It’s not reasonable.

Nor, it turns out, are a lot of Grinnellians. Because when I crept downstairs to the little dorm kitchen, there she was with a breakfast all for me, a book for her, and a cheerful smile, all to my astonishment.

Everyone needs a community. One of GCCF’s goals is to be a caring, active community open to the whole campus (not just Christians). My first year, four GCCF guys lived in a mini-co-op (an apartment-like room in a regular dorm); they decided to use their extra space to foster community. They left their door open and invited anyone and everyone to come borrow their stuff, use their kitchen, eat their food, and socialize in their space. I was one of many who felt exceptionally welcome and at home there, and as a result, I now live there myself. My roommates and I are happily continuing the tradition of the co-op as a space where life is shared and good community happens.

A good community is dynamic. Students at Grinnell are willing to discuss their experiences and beliefs with each other and don’t duck challenging questions. The first time I went to a GCCF Bible Study, I was nervous because the study wasn’t based on a prepared lesson, but on participants’ on-the-spot questions. What if people asked difficult questions? Well, they did, and I learned that when a group of people is willing to tackle tough questions together, what results is not an ugly argument, but a healthy and thoughtful discussion. I’ve listened to people talk about everything from how Jesus might be like a ninja, to whether salvation is a single decision or a lifetime process, to how the biblical story of creation might be interpreted so as not to interfere with scientific theories — the list goes on.

GCCF in the context of Grinnell has done a lot to broaden and deepen my ideas about what community is and what it means to love people. I’ve learned that love is more than hugs and happy notes, more than anonymously shoveling parked cars out of the snow, more than cooking masses of pancakes at 3 a.m. Loving people — building a real community — is getting to know people, going beyond simply tolerating people to really appreciating them for who they are. It’s listening to their stories. It’s knowing we all make mistakes and dumb decisions, and yet we can respect others (and ourselves) regardless. It requires a little risk, a lot of trust, a real desire to learn, and a faith in something bigger than yourself, be it God, humanity, or reason.

Or Santa Claus.

Sara Woolery '11 is an English major from Malerva, Iowa.