an old woman sleeping in a dorm

Getting Oriented to a New World

Okay, I’m back from my parent orientation at Nick’s new school, Washington State University.

It was awesome, not perfect, but awesome. I was absolutely right in my previous post that I didn’t need to go. I didn’t. My son would have been fine on his own, but Nick’s friend Andrew drove out with a buddy and every time I saw him, he waved and smiled as if he wanted to see a friendly face. I’m glad I could be that friendly face.

I am so tired. Two nights on a narrow concrete mattress in a noisy dorm room was enough. Ten hours riding in a car was enough. Ten miles of walking up and down hills was enough.

But the kids were so excited. They sang outside the dorm rooms the first night. A thunderstorm came through the second night and they cheered every time lightning lit the sky. Seriously. They decked themselves out in school logos and colors. They went to every lecture. They lounged in the Student Union. They acted the part of college students until they were.

As for me, I imagined working there in the Humanities Department or the library. I pictured myself editing my next book at a study carrel. I wandered under trees, looked out over the valley, found cozy corners where I might sit and read. I remembered some of the good things about being on a college campus. I grew up in a college town. I miss the flavor of having students come back from summer break. I always loved those first weeks. The energy in town was great!

I want to tell you what this remarkable university is doing: They pick a single book that they recommend to the students to read over the summer, Common Reading Program. Then, many of the classes use that book in their curriculum. This year, they’re reading Refuge: Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World by Alexander Betts and Paul Collier.

I love it! A book club for an entire campus.

I’m reading it now. It will help fight the agony I feel over refugee children separated from their families and living in concentration camps at our southern border in the U.S. It will help direct my protest. It will help me point to solutions instead of lingering in anguish and shame.

I’d like to get my son and his friends to read it too, but after talking to them on the way home, I don’t see much hope of that. Still, if you get an entire community to read a single inspiring book, can you change the world? Can you?

I think you can.

Thank you for listening, jules