A word of 'thanks' to my alma mater...
I am partial to the letter l...one of my favorite poets, B.H. Fairchild, refers to it as 'the Audrey Hepburn of consonants.' If I allow little miss Hepburn to wiggle into Ouachita's Founders Day today, I find a word that immediately reminds me of those halcyon college days - flounder.
flounder - v. 1: to struggle to move or obtain footing; 2: to proceed or act clumsily or ineffectually.
I'm not sure what all my alma mater's founders had in mind when cutting the ribbon on a small, liberal arts Baptist college, but I bettin' at least one of them had a renegade thought, probably unspoken, that went something like 'ya know, kids need a good place to flounder, be clumsy for a few years, gain a little footing.' To that founder, I tip my hat and say 'thank you.'
For some, the thought of spending four, maybe even five years, and not to mention rather large land masses called 'tuition' in a state of floundering is, well, just horrible stewardship of unbiblical proportions. But I, for one, would gently disagree. As for the 'some' just mentioned, yes, there will always be two or three gathered together who have it all figured out at nineteen, 'look out world, here I cometh.' As for the rest of us, we really need some time to flounder around, find our life legs. Ouachita Baptist University provided that for me, and a few others I know...we needed a place to act clumsily and be downright ineffectual...a safe place to fall, for a little while.
You can flounder via many climates: the high-n-tight bootcamps of our military branches; some Elizabeth Gilbert Eat, Pray, Love romp across three cultures; even a go-North-young-man-into-the-wild trek that leads you to an abandoned bus up by some river. All those are fine and well and at least one resulted in a New York Times bestseller and a movie deal with that handsome Julia Roberts. But you can also flounder as a medium sized fish in a medium sized pond in southern Arkansas at a competitive-tuition-rate, in the company of a great cloud of witnesses known as staff and faculty who possess a trait not always found among drill instructors, yogis, or the inside of abandoned buses...yes, I'm taking about
compassion - n. 1: a sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.
I'm quite certain the folks at OBU didn't always like me. But I'm quite certain the folks at OBU always loved me. They remembered the distress of being nineteen or twenty and not knowing what-in-the-sam-hill God wanted you to do, much less what you yourself wanted to do with your one wild and precious life. I believe they also knew you might not figure that out until you were in your, let's say, forties, and miles and miles away from the grace of red-bricked buildings and Bradford pears all in a row, swimming now on your own...strokes only possible because you were once upon a time permitted to flounder about.
So, thank you, Ouachita...thank you very much.