By Todd E. Brady
Vice President for University Ministries; Union University, Jackson
Tuesday (Aug. 17) was the first day. It started again. We did it last year and we’ll do it again next year. For almost 200 years (Union celebrates its bicentennial in two years.) Union University has been starting school every fall. After the summer of an empty campus, the lifeblood has come back into this place. Students have returned. The hallowed halls are again teeming with what makes this place tick — students.
In our weekly meeting on the first day of school, several of us who work at Union shared about how many “first days” we have experienced as employees at an institution of higher education. One shared that he had experienced 32 first days. Another colleague said that this is her sixth first day. For me, it was was my 22nd first day.
Although there have been others before, the first day of school always brings with it new excitement and fresh optimism. You can feel it in the air. For those who serve in education, we believe that Andy Williams had it all wrong. Christmas is not the most wonderful time of year. The beginning of the fall semester is the most wonderful time of the year.
For some this is their first day. I think about those who are starting their careers and have come on our faculty to serve by teaching students. They are fresh out of their graduate work, have little kids at home, and are beginning to build their lives. Oh, all the goodness that is ahead of them.
For others, Tuesday marked their last first day. For some, this is the last year of their career.
For years, they have served at Union and made a difference in the lives of students. They have announced their retirement, and they are beginning their last year with minds that are full of memories and hearts that are full of blessings. Oh, all the goodness that is behind them.
Not only was Tuesday a first day for me; this year marked another first for me. For the first time, I welcomed children of former students. While talking to them, I have found myself thinking, “I remember your dad’s first day.”
No one’s thinking about it now, but in four years these new students will be experiencing their first day. No one is using these words today, but before you know it these students will be talking about caps and gowns, fiancées, moving to new cities, jobs and more.
Students don’t come to the university to become career university students. In the same way that the purpose of childhood is to grow into adulthood, the purpose of a person’s college years is to prepare them for the life that is ahead of them. It is right and good that there is a First day of college. There’s also a 10th day and a 78th day and a 235th day and a first day. It’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Isaac Watts was right on when he wrote, “Time, like an ever-rolling stream, Bears all its sons away; They fly, forgotten, as a dream Dies at the opening day.” The wise writer also said it in Ecclesiastes 3:1 — “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”
Tuesday was a gift. It was another first for all of us. When my mind turns to home and seeing my kids who had their first day of school last week, I am reminded that tomorrow will be another first — the first day of the rest of my life.