Jumbo Steps: Christ’s horseshoe

It’s interesting to see what kind of questions we Jumbos ask each other at the start of every academic year. I’ve noticed that the majority of returning sophomores ask more personal questions compared to the start of freshman year, which makes sense since the first-year song and dance of asking vague questions is over.

There seems to be less of, “What’s your name? Where are you from? What’s your major? Did you do a ‘pre-o’?” and more of, “How was your trip to X place? Did you enjoy your internship? How about we continue being gym buddies? Remember all those grueling study nights for X class?”

But when I brunched over homemade banana bread with an old friend last week, this usual line of questioning shifted in a direction I’ve never seen it go before.

“How are you holding up mentally?” she asked casually. “Pretty well, actually,” I proudly reported. Although Tufts doesn’t really assign “summer homework” (hallelujah), I had a pretty hefty workload before returning to campus. My self-assignment was to identify what I should change to make my well-being better this time around, and by extension, to identify who or what is preventing me from making those changes.

After pondering this question for 15 weeks, I found my answer: I was stifling my religious growth. As such, one change I’ve made this year is to join one of Tufts’ Non-denominational Christian Fellowship (NCF) clubs.

To me, religion is fundamentally a personal relationship — not only with a deity, but also among other believers. So you can imagine how awkward it was for me diving right into my first NCF get-together; I knew only one other person there, and was worshipping a God who I’d put on the back burner for quite some time.

We sat around in a horseshoe-shaped row of chairs. I picked the innermost seat, plopping down next to (unbeknownst to me) that night’s speaker on my left and a couple I’ve never seen in my life on my right.

But eventually, the couple departed early for the night, right before the speaker left his seat to deliver his sermon. So here I was, in the middle of the horseshoe, alone.

I regard myself as sociable and extroverted, but in novel social situations, I sometimes turn inward. I tried to avert my attention from the empty seats toward the lyrics of the worship songs. I tried to stop thinking about how I could have easily moved just a few seats to join the rest of the group, or how I could have felt less isolated if I had just begun singing with everyone.

But I didn’t try for that long. Because I didn’t have to. The one person I knew forewent sitting with the regulars to take up the empty chair to my right.

This is the community I’ve been searching for. The one I’ve been craving. The one I’m excited to grow with.