Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Adjusting the compass

Danny Wenger

A week ago today, my friend Ryan died. I had never lost a friend before. I wasn't sure what to say or think. I felt disoriented for days. I had to go to class, work, and fulfill other duties, but it was like my ears were ringing from an M-80 that exploded too close to my head. No matter how hard i concentrated, the ring of pain was still there. I could suppress it, but in the quiet moments when my guard went down it became deafening. Suddenly everything was somehow connected to Ryan. Like little shards of who he was were embedded everywhere i looked. I wanted to dig my heels in and push back against the flow of time. Slow the Earths revolutions with my shoulder. Such a great friend had tragically snatched from this life. How could everyone not stop and take notice? But my shoulders aren't as wide as Atlas'. The sun rose and set. The moon arched across the darkened night. The world kept turning. It was a rough week. on a cloudless morning a group of us, friends strengthened through tragedy, took a cross to the site of the accident. We spoke, we laughed and we salted the uncut grass with free flowing tears. We marked the spot where a great friend finished the story of his life, and put another chapter in our own. We moved on. I've had several professors in my stint as a college student. Some have been good and others downright deplorable. I've even gotten scholarships and recognition for my academic achievement. But last week i learned the most about life and myself. College is the last stop before we fight the dragon known as reality. We take out loans we don't have to pay back yet and manage to survive on prison-ration meals. College is also the time we orient ourselves to set our course for life. When i was a teenager, i was an active boy scout. One of the skills i learned was how to read a map and set a course with a compass. Precision is important when working with a compass. If you miscalculate your course by a few degrees it might not matter when you first start hiking, but pretty soon that degree or two you were off - a few centimeters on the compass face - can put you miles from where you need to be. Ryan set his course when he was in college. He changed his course to be friendlier and more open to people. He decided to take the path of working in what he loved and working hard to make you laugh. He made little adjustments that led to great differences. Unfortunately, he didn't get far down the path, but he gave the rest of us a good landmark to orient ourselves. You didn't have to know Ryan to understand what i'm getting at. We all have little things we can change about how we treat those around us. They aren't giant changes, just small things that can make a difference. If we make those changes now, adjust our compass for a new course, we can end up in an entirely better place than where we night be heading. Just like Ryan

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