Walking across campus this morning, I saw signs for the Campus Activities Fair. At this annual fall-semester event, held on campuses across the country, students stroll between table after table to visit with or find information on local businesses, campus organizations and clubs, local faith communities, community service groups and more. It struck me as I watched hundreds of wide-eyed students full of hope and excitement, fear and curiosity, that this new world into which each has stepped is typically one new opportunity after another; one new first-time decision or choice to make, then another, then another.
The beginning of the college experience – the settling in to routine of class flow, study habits, eating and sleeping patterns, roommate adjustments, communication, etc. – is for most students full of opportunities that may not have been previously available or necessary. There are opportunities to participate or attend groups or events that many students didn’t know existed before the beginning of this new adventure. There are scores of new peers with ideas and values, some dramatically different from the ideas and values your student may have been exposed to or raised with, and some of these new opportunities are appealing.
Each new encounter offers a choice. And, as you hear about those choices you will find yourselves faced with choices about how you might respond. I’ll gladly credit my wife for this question – what we called the “gut check” question – when faced with our own “opportunity to respond” to choices we had opinions on. The question is simply, “Is this a Mountain to die on, or a Molehill?” I bequeath you the question! When faced with multiple options to respond to a choice your daughter/son has made or considering, take just a moment to run a gut check, asking, “Hmmm, is this a mountain or a molehill?” It is not the question so much as it is the awareness of what you are feeling that the question helps identify, and that is what I believe will ultimately help make this transition an intentional one, and far more meaningful.