As I prepare to put on that cap and gown, (a month from today, actually), I have been given the opportunity to reflect on what four years at LMU have looked liked for me. How this campus, this community, these people, have moved through me.
There is something about traveling – about crossing distances, walking new paths, allowing different winds to run through your hair. There is something about travel that transforms us like perhaps nothing else can; but there is also something about travel that compels us to leave that bit of the world a little better than we found it, and something about travel that compels us to be reflective and intentional about the lives we are living.
For many of us, during our time at LMU, travel occurred in a physical space – from sitting on the bluff to finding ourselves across the Atlantic or crossing borders into new lands, encountering cultures and worlds and people who we found were the same, and different, in the most beautiful ways. Perhaps it was your host mother in Bonn. Or that woman you spoke to on your AB Trip. Or the man who always asked how you were doing when you bought your sandwich in Oxford each day.
And perhaps, without even knowing it, their kindnesses and teachings and perspective about life and about the world changed us. Transformed us somehow. And hopefully, even if we failed to recognize it in those moments, we were able to do the same for them. Travel transformed my world in ways that I am still discovering today. And I know that many of you speak that same truth. That, though articulating it might prove nearly impossible, your time abroad – through whatever program or opportunity you were fortunate enough to take part in – changed your world in ways that you will be eternally grateful for.
But, for me – and my guess is, for all of us – the most profound transformations have occurred right here. On this campus. Along that bluff. In that chapel. In those classrooms. Because the journeys we have taken with each other, and our professors, and the hundreds of individuals that make this university what it is, will always be the most profound instances of travel and crossing distances. These relationships will be the ones that we pray our children might have, and that they will pray for their children to have as well.
These are the relationships and moments that change everything.
My hope is that, for many of us, some of the most penetrating traveling experiences have occurred in the classroom. That with your professor firing questions or providing the most reflective answers – whether they were sitting across from you in a circle or pacing furiously around the room – your hearts and your minds have been transformed. That with every minute spent inside of a classroom, you were changing, traveling, beginning to understand the world with more knowledge and perspective. I hope that on some days, you found yourself so impassioned by an idea that you could barely sit still. And that on others, the passion of your classmates inspired you in ways that you never could have expected when you first set foot on this campus.
We have traveled – and been transformed – by the classroom. By our professors. Our classmates. But it would be a disservice, I think, to speak about transformation and travel at LMU without discussing the breadth of opportunities this place has provided us with. Service orgs. Greek life. Faith based groups. Music groups. Living learning communities. Honors societies. Sports clubs and teams. The list goes on. Travel occurs in the classroom. But travel has also occurred, in incredibly vital and important ways, outside of the classroom. In between classes. Before them. And after. In our walks from UHall to the library. Or in those from Del Rey South to Desmond. Or in the time you took to walk along the bluff because all you really needed on that day was to slow down, to take a deep breath, and to just be.
In the laughter. The tears. The conversations. The silence. We have traveled outside of the classroom, because LMU has taught us – if nothing else – that we are whole beings, whole persons. Who need nourishment in ways that sometimes a classroom cannot provide.
And maybe it is the writer in me, but I am inclined to believe that some of the best travel has occurred within us. Sitting alone on the bluff, in prayer or communion with our God or the universe or each other. Maybe it happened while you were flipping through the pages of a new book or scribbling away in your journal. Or even on those occasions (very few I am sure) that you spent daydreaming during class – wondering about life after LMU. After this day. Our resumes and transcripts are road maps in their own right. They tell stories of how we have traveled as students during our time here – how the classroom, and the things outside of the classroom have moved and transformed us. But our hearts have roadmaps of their own. Telling stories of how we have traveled and grown – in other, equally profound ways – because of the people we have walked with, and the distances we have crossed. We traveled distances in those moments, together and alone. To new lands. New places. New worlds.
But there is a world out there. Beyond us. Beyond this place. Waiting for us to walk upon it, to travel across it, to allow its vastness and beauty to overwhelm and excite us. There is a world out there – and a world within each of us – waiting for you to encounter it, with all of the travel and perspective and love, that this place upon the bluff has gifted us with.