April 8, 2017 - Perseverance - Larry Mullins
It was clear from day one that Allison was not your “typical” OSU student. Striding into class, sitting immediately in front of me on the first row, she was a bit older (probably late 20’s) and what we often refer to in academia as a “nontraditional” student. With a nice shock of blue hair, she had ornate tattoos on both her arms. She was also quite pregnant, and after that very first class, she politely told me that her goal for my class was to “get to the finish line” and make it to finals week before having what would be her second child. Allison was different in a number of other ways. She never missed a class, although there were times she arrived at the last minute, out of breath, having driven 45 minutes from her hometown to get to Stillwater after making sure that her two-year-old was safe with her baby sitter. She never had her phone out to text. She was usually the first to answer a discussion question. And she was easily performing in the top 5% of the class grade-wise. Although her written answers were not always as articulate and polished as those of some other students, it was obvious how hard she worked at every single aspect of every project or essay.
And, she was also quite open about her life. Over the course of the semester, between conversations in class, after class, and in her essays, her life spilled out. Removed from her parent’s custody before the age of 3 secondary to their severe drug and alcohol problems and subsequent abuse and neglect, she bounced from foster placement to foster placement, group home to group home, until she lost count. More abuse-physical, emotional, and sexual. There was a brief stint in a psychiatric hospital due to “anger” and “depression” issues, not to mention trials of medications for such issues that often resulted her being in a zombie like state (until she simply refused to take them any more). It was not until she was 14 years old and a distant Aunt agreed to take her into her home that she found any stability at all. At 20 she began the long process of going to college, working part time and completely supporting herself until she married an engineer about four years ago.
Late in the semester, as we spoke about her upcoming graduation and future plans, I gently asked her, “how did you get here”? She looked at me with a slightly puzzled look on her face and said, “what do you mean”? I said, “how did you survive all that you did”? Allison looked at me, smiled and said, “You know, I guess between my aunt’s love and God’s grace, I made it through. You know Dr. M., that’s all I ever really wanted. Isn’t that what we all want? It’s really a lot simpler than folks make it out to be. A little love and God’s grace. Now I have a wonderful husband, a growing family, and my plan is to go out in the world and help those, who like me, weren’t dealt a very good hand.” She paused for a second, and then said, “Oh, and one other thing…..
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 12:4-8 NRSV
Posted on Sat, April 8, 2017
by Micah James