Bob Thomas, a late business professor of mine, once walked the paths at Eastern keeping count of the people who acknowledged him. Even a simple wave or nod counted. Sadly, very few people greeted my professor.
Three years after his experiments, I doubt the results would be any different. People still ignore each other.
Some of us wouldn’t see anything wrong with this. “It’s awkward to greet strangers. Only weird people smile at every person they pass. It’s not rude to ignore people – it’s normal.”
On a recent road trip to Iowa, it struck my attention that, geographically, not all of the United States acts this way. In Indiana, Illinois and Iowa I was pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of virtually everyone. At the airport in Moline, Ill., I met some of the most delightful people working the newsstand, the café and the metal detector line. Returning to Philadelphia International Airport, I was greeted by cursing, angry people. Not much of a shock, but I knew I was home.
The Midwest has more open space, farms and laid-back people than the Northeast, and perhaps those factors contribute to varying degrees of individualism. Kea-Guffin and Sparrowk halls have been known for their different community feels. From personal experience of living at the latter, I would say that building structures can have an effect on how much people spend time together. In Sparrowk, all the doors were shut and there was very little interaction. Though one of the older residence halls on campus, Kea-Guffin takes pride in its community.
As I have come to find, collecting a bunch of Christians and having them live together does not automatically produce a perfect community. There are still lonely faces. Students still flee campus on the weekends.
Never again will any of us have such an opportunity as now to exemplify what a caring Christian community should look like. What is there to infringe upon us? At Eastern, we’re free to worship, faith is tied directly into our studies and encouragement can be found everywhere around us. Why then have we failed to be a perfect Christian community? What reason do we have for showing attitudes and cold shoulders?
If you visit our new web site you’ll see smiling faces advertising a welcoming community. But we all know that not everyone at Eastern smiles at you. In reality, that will never happen. It is an idealistic way of thinking to imagine a university where everyone is always happy.
Still, we are called to care about each other. The upperclassmen should be the leaders and set a good, welcoming example. The new students will learn from their friendship. Consider how much better a place is when it has friendly people.
Although far from perfect, Eastern would be a better body of Christ if we simply learned to not avoid each other.
Inquiring Minds is the opinion of the writer with collective thoughts of the editorial staff included, although not altogether representative of the editorial staff’s views.