I Believe in Handwritten Letters, by Rachel Rebagay

Dear Friend,

I know that we live in a world with technology like cell phones, texts, and Skype that allow us to keep in touch almost as quickly as if we were in the same room. I know that if I text you, you’ll reply in a few hours at the most and in a few seconds at best. And I know the power of fast communication. But I also know the power of handwritten letters.

When I met you at summer camp five years ago, I knew I had found a kindred spirit, and I wasn’t going to let that find go to waste. But I also knew that you wouldn’t be just an ordinary friend to me. And extraordinary friends call for extraordinary methods of communication. Maybe even something extra-ordinary like pen and paper.

Being the introvert I am, I found it easier to pour my thoughts and soul into words on a page, envisioning you reading it with a smile on your face. Writing letters made me feel like I would really be listened to. That every word I wrote was important and would somehow be documented for eternity. Writing to you made me think through my own beliefs and problems. And then there were your responses.

Your life filled the pages of those long awaited letters. No matter how much time passed between responses, they brought me infinite amounts of joy and still do. Your personality shone through your wording and handwriting. Just the fact that you took the time to sit down and write was incredible. And not just write, but write to me. And it meant the world.

Thanks to you, my love of writing letters has grown. I can’t tell you the countless people that I’ve been able to touch with my words of gratitude, my words of truth, and my words of comfort. The reactions that I’ve received from other friends whom I write to have been so sweet. Some people feel the need to write me back. Some tell me that it’s the most thoughtful thing that they’ve ever received. I even had a friend hang my letter on the wall next to his high school diploma. Words have power, and that has never been clearer than it is now. Nothing brings me more joy than to bring joy to others, and writing letters is just one of the many ways I can do that.

When we first started writing letters, it was to encourage each other in our faith journeys. Since then, I have adopted some of my favorite words ever written in a letter:

“I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”- 2 John 13

Until then, I will continue to cherish our friendship using the best tool I know how…letter writing.

All the very best,

Rachel

……………………………………

GA TIB Book Rachel RebagayRachel Rebagay is a recent graduate from Texas Christian University. Although she majored in Mechanical Engineering, she was heavily involved in the Religious and Spiritual Life at TCU. During her time at TCU, Rachel served on the Leadership Team of Disciples on Campus as well as helped to create the TCU Worship Team, which brings worship events and prayer opportunities to campus. This fall, she will be pursuing her Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University.

I Believe in Presence, by Dr. Don Mills

Independence is a good thing.  Taking care of yourself is what adults do.  Adversity is a challenge best overcome with your innate strength and talents.  Generally that has worked for me throughout my life.  Or so it seemed to me.  When I was recently diagnosed with a serious illness, my attitude was “ok, I can do this.”  I researched, prayed, planned and plunged forward with surgery, radiation and drug therapy.  I did what the science said, missed as little work as possible and decided that this was another battle that I would win using the skills and strengths I have.

The doctors told me this was difficult and that I should consider a support group.  Not me!  This was my battle and I would fight, with my family by my side, and win.  I was in for a surprise – an awakening no doubt but not a rude one!

The physical part of my fight was relatively easy.  There were symptoms and side effects, but basically not too difficult.  But I was unprepared for the emotional journey.   I tried to keep this bottled up.  After all, this was my problem and I would solve it.

I began to get calls and notes from people who had experienced a similar challenge in their lives.  I thought that was so kind and considerate.  Then I began to realize that each time, I felt a little better.  My colleagues at TCU were phenomenal.  Their genuine care buoyed me when I really needed propping up.   It really hit me when I went to radiation.  There I met many people in the same situation as me.  People who I would not normally meet.  Engineers, truck drivers, school teachers, politicians, ranchers.  And we talked.  About our families, our careers, our hopes, our fears.  We laughed.  We cared about each other in very significant ways.  I began to realize that I looked forward to radiation every day.  Not for the treatment.  But for the company of these strangers who had entered my life – and had made it richer and better.

This experience reconfirmed to me what I believe and now know with absolute certainty.  God gives us what we need, when we need it.  The key is to know what we need.  As I reflect on the many years at TCU, I remember again and again that when I needed it, it seemed the right person entered my life, whether student, colleague, mentor or parent. I rediscovered that the delivery vehicle of God’s grace and God’s goodness and God’s compassion is packaged in thousands of different ways.  And in packages I might not have picked if it were up to me.  I know the corollary to this belief as well.  I must be prepared to be the vehicle of God’s grace for someone else who needs it – even if they don’t know it.  That, I believe, is how God works in this complex, noisy and fragile world.

Author: Dr. Don Mills, Distinguished Professor of Educational Leadership, Spring 2015

 

Mills, DonDon Mills has spent the last 46 years at TCU.  After 42 years in administration (the last 18 as Vice Chancellor), he left administering for professing in 2011. He is now Distinguished Professor of Higher Education Leadership where he initiated the doctoral program.  He is especially interested in the concepts of community, higher education renewal, and engagement.  Don has a wonderful wife, two terrific children and three beautiful, talented grandchildren.

I Believe in Building Relationships Through Shared Experience (also…netflix)

Author: Abby Smartt, TCU Student, Published Fall 2014

One Tree Hill. New Girl. Friday Night Lights. Orange is the New Black. How I Met Your Mother.

What do these random shows all have in common you might ask. They are on Netflix. My semi-addiction became real when One Tree Hill was added to the website. I was so excited that I decided to watch the whole series all over again. Some might have marked that a waste of my time. Seeing that there are 187 episodes that are 43 minutes each totaling to 8,041 minutes or 134 hours or 5 and half days, I could probably agree that this period of my life was not my most productive. Watching the series sparked a love in me and it continued when I came to college.

During my first semester, my roommate decided she wanted to watch One Tree Hill and I agreed to watch with her, again. After that series, I started watching New Girl with my new boyfriend. Then I moved to Friday Night Lights with my sister. How I Met Your Mother was next with my friend Jackie. Orange is the New Black was last with my mom.

That is a lot of time spent in front of the television. And I do not care how bad people say that is for you because I believe the relationships were built or strengthened because of it.  It doesn’t matter how much we were drooling over Tim Riggins is or why we were laughing at Barney, it doesn’t matter as much about the show as it does the people that it brings into your life.  Netflix brought people in my life and gave us an hour to sit down, take a break, and enjoy each other’s company through something we both enjoyed.

One Tree Hill brought two awkward freshman roommates together. New Girl made a long distance relationship have something to look forward to together every week. Friday Night Lights showed me that my sister spent so many weekends on the couch with me because she felt we had drifted a part. Orange is the New Black made my mom and I a lot more comfortable with each other. And How I Met Your Mother brought two unlikely friends to be roommates.

Relationships, whether personal or professional, help guide our lives. We are made as relational beings. All humans have a desire to connect and be a part of someone else’s life.  People are meant to be with other people. Having that common ground, or shared experience can give family, friends, or strangers an experience they will always share. I believe that some of the best relationships are built in a shared mutual experience. Colleagues connect over the love of their profession, teammates bond over the pride of their team, some bond over food, and I build some of my relationships through Netflix. I believe in the power of building relationships through shared experiences.

I Believe in Racial Equality for all People

Author: La’Darion Freeman, TCU Student, Fall 2014

These days it seems that the subject of race is present in practically every major situation. It does not simply pertain to the “White vs. Black” situation that sometimes occurs in America, but it is also outstretched to many parts of the world, causing great conflicts. I believe that racial equality for all people would diminish the unnecessary conflicts and cause us to look at each other as true peers.

Growing up in south Mississippi, I was exposed to quite a few situations in which race was a determining factor. For example, I had plenty of white friends and we usually liked to go eat after football practice, the most popular places to eat in the area that we lived were at the casinos. On one particular day we decided to go to a casino to eat because it was half priced; the group consisted of about five Caucasian guys and three African Americans. Upon entering the casino, my white friends were instantly let in without even being checked for proper age, however, the other black guys and myself were stopped abruptly and it almost seemed like we were going to be detained for even coming in to the casino. We were checked for identification, they attempted to frisk us but we adamantly refused, and finally they said they would not allow us in because we presented a high “theft risk”. Our white friends watched this whole situation unfurl and at its conclusion they demanded to speak to the manager, which security declined, so we all simply just left. Until that point I had never been in a situation where my right to eat was denied simply because of my race.

The casino situation was troubling to me because I come from a mixed family: my dad’s grandfather was biracial, I have white uncles, and I even have a white grandmother. The values that my parents etched into my brain were that race has nothing to do with judging someone, they should be judged by their character and their actions.

I believe in America’s fraternity

Author: Steven Hofmann, TCU Student, Business Major, Published Fall 2012

I am in America’s fraternity.

It’s not Greek. It was born right here on U.S. soil. It’s the biggest, the toughest, most selfless, most accomplished, and most respected fraternity you can imagine. We’ve never lost anything we’ve been involved in. In my fraternity, uncommon valor is a common virtue. My letters don’t resemble the ones you’re familiar with. My letters read “U.S.M.C.,” and they stand for the United States Marine Corps.

Being a part of this fraternity means more to me than proving I’m the coolest guy, than being the one that can drink the most, meeting a bunch of girls, or being the most connected person in my circle of friends. To me it’s about going through both an internal and external transformation. During my “rushing” process, I not only earned the esteemed title of “Marine,” but I also became a part of something much greater than myself. I became part of an elite history of discipline, loyalty, leadership, and gallantry. My “rush” week was 12 weeks long, 7 days a week, twenty-four hours a day, and even after all that I was STILL a peon! To me it means having a brother. Not a brother who gives me his notes to class, or lets me borrow his fake ID. I’m talking about a brother that gives you his last canteen of water when you’ve been on a patrol, in 117-degree heat, with no sign of your next re-supply opportunity.

I mean a brother who runs out of any cover or concealment, into the screaming of rounds whistling by his ear. With no concern for himself or his family, he comes and picks me up, both of us in 80lbs of gear, and puts me on his shoulder. One hand on me, one hand on his weapon and the rapping of death at our door, he carries me back to the cover of our vehicle. Without a doubt, he is the only reason I am here today. That’s the type of brother my fraternity produces.

In my brotherhood, community service means service to my country. Service to my country means protecting my fellow Americans. Protecting my fellow Americans means being a part of America’s Fraternity and being a part of my fraternity, means that you have the freedom to be a part of your fraternity too.

I believe in the good in goodbye

Author: Russel Hodges, TCU Student, Journalism Major, Published Fall 2012

I view saying goodbye the same way I view doing chores. Nothing but bitterness arises when my parents tell me to take out the trash, water the garden, or even mow the lawn. However, regardless of how long I procrastinate, or how much I may dread the obligation, I always end up pulling through. Those same distasteful thoughts and feelings reappear every time I have to bid farewell to somebody. It’s strange though. Whenever I complete a task around the house, I always wind up with a weird sense of satisfaction. Interestingly enough, I experience that same satisfaction after I say goodbye to someone. But it just doesn’t add up! Aren’t farewells supposed to be sad? I used to believe so, until one night with my best friend proved to me that goodbyes are just temporary and they will never leave permanent scars.

I had known Bailey for three years, but we never really became close friends until this past summer. As my feelings for her began to grow, it became much harder for me to even contemplate saying goodbye. Nevertheless, I continued to spend as much time with her as possible until my doomsday finally arrived. Little did I know that day would become a memory that will forever be ingrained into the inner walls of my subconscious. I can still remember her lowering her head into my chest as she wrapped her arms tightly around my waist. I could also hear the sound of her sniffling over the passing cars that raced back and forth along the road behind us. Feelings of anger, sadness and frustration began to rush through my veins as I fought every urge in my mind and body to let go. As much as it killed me on the inside, I knew that in order to move along the path of my life and pursue my dreams, I simply had no choice.

Saying goodbye has never been easy for me, and like a chore I had waited until the last possible moment to gather the strength necessary to face my fear. Something wasn’t right though. Throughout my life, I had always succumbed to sadness whenever I needed to bid farewell to somebody. But this farewell was different. The bitter feelings I had been so accustomed to were nowhere to be found. I was happy! Was I losing my mind? How could I feel this contempt about leaving somebody I had shared so many memories with? Suddenly, it hit me like a freight train. With each task completed comes a new task left unattended, just like each farewell brings with it more to come in the future. I knew I would see her again, and although I’m still not sure when that time will come, I learned that there is always good to find in a goodbye.

I believe in dive restaurants

Author: Charlotte Hogg, PHD, Professor, TCU English Department, Published Fall 2012

In a culture where being a food lover means being able to separate the quinoa from the spelt, I find myself gravitating to places tucked away or popular with the locals but eschewed by foodies. This might be because I’m an academic where potlucks don’t mean casseroles but endive or soft cheeses I can’t name. But when I got my first job as an assistant professor, I was thrilled when two of the snobbiest in my department invited me to dinner, then took me not to a ritzy place but a cheap pizza buffet–that served tater tots as a side!–on the west edge of town. “We come here when we want to gossip and want to make sure we won’t see anyone we know,” they confided before biting into their greasy pizza slices. I liked them right away.

I once took my now-husband to that same pizza buffet, a small space brimming with decorations for an upcoming holiday, and he loved it. As he went to order his specialty toppings and load his cheap, metal plate with more tots and ketchup, I thought: he’s a keeper. The pizza buffet is filled with regulars and waiters who are quick on the draw with refills and smiles. Some of our best conversations have happened there after a long work day as we hunker over our thin crusts and settle in, TVs, chatter, and dingy holiday décor as the backdrop. Other patrons say hello as we graciously step aside to share the pizza line for plate number two.

A year or so ago, we befriended a new couple, and I realized that I had made a litmus test of our compatibility by where we decided to eat dinner. Rather than suggesting restaurants in the burgeoning hip part of town, I sheepishly suggested we head to the Mexican restaurant in the suburb not far in miles but far in lifestyle from the private university where I work. They instantly agreed, and it became a regular place for us to talk about our toddlers’ milestones as we shared chips and salsa and our boys smashed and chewed their cheese quesadillas.

Dive restaurants are almost always local and almost always familiar, where one can feel like they are Norm on the sitcom Cheers when walking through the door. When I first moved to Fort Worth, feeling unmoored by its huge population and ropes of interstates, these restaurants warmly took in a stranger and a new friend, inviting us to get past the small talk and get to the nitty gritty. While sitting at a wobbly table, shaking malt vinegar on fish and chips as a chatty waitress refilled our drinks, creating companionship suddenly seemed not only possible but easy, and this is why I believe in dive restaurants.