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Letter to the Editor: An ode to community at St. Olaf


Community at St. Olaf? Yes, we have it.


Reflections from a senior.


So, where is it?


I know, I’ve experienced it. It is beautiful.


It is right in front of our eyes. Unfortunately, some of our eyes are closed. It’s likely because it’s scary to open your eyes to what you have, because if you have love, then you are able to lose it. My eyes have been closed recently, too. I’ve noticed that I want to poop on my reality because it makes it easier to leave this spring.


I’m here to help you open your eyes and guide you to what to look for.


At St. Olaf, community is at every corner you turn. And by community, I mean communal loving: shared understanding, shared experiences, shared love.


Let’s start at Buntrock Commons. Immediately when I walk in, what do I see? The lovely faces of Tess, Jayleen, and Faith, who serve us all coffee every day, who fuel our bodies as we walk throughout this campus. Who doesn’t love them? How lucky are all 3,000 St. Olaf students to all be fed and smiled at by the same people every day. This is community.


Bye Tess, bye Faith, bye Jayleen.


Our next stop is Stav Hall. My favorite place on campus. I’m a bit biased since I work there, but I don’t know where else on campus I hear as much laughter. Can you think of any other place? LMK!


Okay, so Stav. Walk right up to the entrance in the morning and we see Elaine, or as many know her, “Grandma.” For many, many years she’s been scanning St. OlafStudent IDs and smiles with students’ breakfast.


Go to lunch and dinner and who else do you see? Josh. “Ponytail man,” that’s also how I know him. It is often the highlight of my day after a hard class to hear Josh tell me as I scan my ID, “Have a good day, folks.” To each and every student. We are so lucky, Oles. We are so loved. So much love floating around Stav.


Community also flows in each and every classroom. Sometimes I forget it, but a “how are you doing?” from Peder Jothen reminds me that our classrooms are our homes. Our classrooms are our families. Every day we get to be in the presence of our three to four families. It’s quite amazing.


And of course we have the admin. I used to have a negative attitude toward admin, to be honest. Workers of the systems that are making us depressed. Workers of the system that is stealing my money. But there has been many a panic attack where I have been lifted by Brittan Duffing’s “I was so worried about you.” Or Hassel Morrison’s “you can do this…keep your chest up” when I wanted to drop out this spring semester. The admin are the glue of the community.


What else? Well, we have The Olaf Messenger, keeping us informed day in and day out. Reminding us of who we are. Reminding us of what we care about. Reminding us of the faces of our community.


And of course. Of course. We have the squirrels. The squirrels that run around the quad that I’m sure have been there for years. Nibbling on a nut as we walk to class.


We have the owls in the trees by Hoyme. The geese in the pond in the Natty Lands.


The leaves that fall from our big, beautiful trees and welcome us every fall.


Ahhh, there is too much community to name.


But, instead of being overwhelmed, most days I feel empowered. Because this is my community. Our community. Hello, you. You are my community.  I really try to embody this everyday. I walk up to “strangers” and say hello. Chat with them as we watch the sunset. Sit across from “strangers” at Stav. We sit and eat in silence. I say hello to people as I pass them on my way to class. I stand close to people in line to let them know I’m physically supporting them. I want to feel and be a part of this beautiful community at St. Olaf.


I want this for all of us at St. Olaf.


Someone once told me, someone who practices gratitude, to walk out of a room once and then walk back in. Look upon the people. Take them in.


This is my gift to you. Let this article be an opportunity to “walk out of the room.” Take on St. Olaf with a new set of eyes.


This happened to me over spring break. I walked off campus and now I’m back. I’m ready to bathe in our community for my last two months here.


It was nice chatting with you. If I see you around, I will say hello.


Sophia Schillinger is from Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Her major is cross-cultural wellness studies, an individual major.