Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dear Pete Wooster, or The Meaning of Life

Disclaimer:  I have not written a paper such as this since I graduated Hanover College in May 2008. Please forgive me if this is all over the place and there is no clear thesis (because I never could figure out how to write a good thesis). I also write patient notes all day that need to be short and concise.

It was May of 2009, at Hanover College. I was required to take a course during Spring Term as part of the "Freshman Experience". I had 3 professors that each taught the course as well as one professor that was our go-to person and the one that graded all our projects and papers. Pete Wooster, a geology professor, was my go-to person. The final paper of Spring Term was to write your meaning of life. Part of this process we had to have Pete proofread/edit/destroy (that's how I remember it) our first draft. I remember sitting in Pete's office on the back side of the Science Center overlooking the quad. I looked at Pete when he asked me a question about the meaning of life. I responded, "I don't think I can have a meaning of life at this point in my life. I am only 19 years old." I remember he told me that I should have an idea what the meaning of life is at this point, it is foolish not to. It probably was not as harsh as I just put it, but I was crushed. I was a perfect student in high school. I am Type A personality, and I am a perfectionist. Basically, if it is not my idea, it is not right. In church on Sunday, I had an epiphany. The meaning of life is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40).

Look who I found on Hanover's Flickr Sarah Albertson
Hanover College Quad

The gospel reading from Sunday was Matthew 22: 34-40. Jesus was speaking with the Sadducees when one asked what the greatest law was. This man was a scholar and Father Dexter took the spin that this man was trying to out smart Jesus and show him that he was more pious than Jesus. Jesus told the man that there are two laws that are the greatest, we are to love the Lord our God with all out heart, soul and all our minds. The second law instructs us to love your neighbor as yourself. These two laws are to be followed together, equally. 

Grandpa & Grandma Davis day before Hanover College Graduation
Strong Role Models for my faith

Just because we love God with all our heart, soul and mind does not give us a license to hate others that are different than ourselves. If we love God too much, but forget to love our neighbor, then we are walking around thinking we are more pious than the next guy. For example, I go to church every Sunday and occasionally (read, seldom) go on Wednesdays. I can get so caught up in my love of God that I think that the Christians that go to church less than this are less pious than myself. This is why the second law is to be followed, to love your neighbor as yourself. We are called, as Christians to love our God completely and fully, but we are also called to love others despite their differences, frequency of attending church, or saying prayers. 

Rachel Halleck & Holly Heindselman Homecoming 2013
I love my friends from my time at Hanover despite the fact they had a different major than me

Father Dexter described a time when he was a freshman in college when a woman followed the first law, but omitted the second. He was giving us an image of walking into a St. Mary's Church at 18 years old, his first semester in college. He solemnly shuffled to the front of the the church, right in front of the blessed sacrament. This church in particular had kneelers in the front of the church to venerate the blessed sacrament. Father Dexter was visibly distraught, and slumped down on the kneelers, back to the blessed sacrament head in his hands. As Father was finding comfort by being in the presence of our Lord, an older woman walked up to him stated, "Remember, we do not turn our backs to the blessed sacrament." This woman was implying that she was more pious than he because she would not think to put her back to the blessed sacrament. Father continued to discuss how this woman did not ask him what was wrong or off any humanly comfort, but reminded him of a rule (written or unwritten). This woman was obeying the first law to love the Lord our God, but omitted for one reason or another, the second rule to love her neighbor.

Hanover College Chapel, where I attended church a handful of times

These two laws, to love God and to love our neighbor, are rules/values/laws that have been instilled in me since I was a little girl. Everything I do throughout my day can be summed up into one of these laws. When I am working with a patient who has just suffered a stroke, I am loving my neighbor and loving my God. When I am fixing dinner for my husband, I am loving my neighbor and my God. When I am helping a friend pack up her house to move to NC, I am loving my neighbor and my God. I try to treat others with love and respect, just like God treats me. I want to show others, Christian or not, heterosexual or homosexual, man or woman, the love that God provides to me every day. Although, I fail daily at loving others, and loving/trusting God, I continue to come back to these two laws to help ground me and to ask for forgiveness.

Prince of Peace Catholic Church Madison, IN
Where I attended mass a few times in college
Image courtesy of redtree photography, what a beautiful wedding

The meaning of life is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind as well as love your neighbor as yourself. After 10 years, my meaning of life has changed slightly. I wish I could find that paper that I wrote my freshman year of college. I believe my meaning of life at 19 (I still find it crazy to think that you need to know what the meaning of life is at 19), was to love others just as God loves us, thus making others feel the love of God. Throughout the course of my 29 years, 2 months and 6 days that I have been on this Earth I have lived my life according to these two principles, to love God and to love my neighbor. If you live life according to this meaning, you will find joy in life and all other things will fall into place.The meaning of life is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself.

Matthew 22:37-40

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