Welcome Back Students
August 22, 2016
My Dear Students,
I hope you receive this letter with the best of Iman and health.
It gives me joy to welcome you back to another school year at Loyola. Classes begin in less than a week. The student presence on campus is growing, seemingly by the hour. I’m noticing that the many eager South Asian fathers who stroll along with their freshmen each seem to look like relatives of mine. And each year, they seem to be closer and closer to my age, as my oldest daughter began her campus visits this past year, and is just a few years away from entering college herself. I’m also enjoying the last days of a lightning fast internet connection before the thousands of students log into the system.
I hope that you are full of energy, ready for an exciting year of learning, bonding, and growing. I am somewhere in my ninth year of teaching here, and my third year as your Chaplain. In these roles, I have learned as much as you have and look forward to learning much more. I enjoy conversation with students because they (you) possess that youthful curiosity about the world, with just enough of a lack of filter to be honest, and enough of a filter to be polite. As we get older, often our filters get stronger, cautioning us in what we say, as well as what we think about ourselves. Of course, my family members are still waiting for my filters to develop. Smile.
Let us not forget how taxing this summer has been. It has been one of the most difficult summers for me in years. Some of those difficulties come from the same things you have experienced, through our national political discourse, local and international violence perpetrated by people claiming to be Muslim, as well as violence perpetrated against Muslims (and those lumped with Muslims). The Presidential election is still some two and a half months away, and a lot can happen until then, and after then.
In that spirit, I have an important request for you for this year: let us work extra hard in community building. When you feel as though you are the only person carrying burdens or enduring struggle, it is a painful, lonely experience. When you share with others, even if it is with mere conversation, the loneliness feels a bit less constricting. There are a few ways to build this community. First, attend my and MSA events. I will be offering even more programming than last year. The MSA has been working to improve this year over previous excellent years. Second, when you have meals, try to eat with others.
And, let us not forget the primary reason that you are here at Loyola. For most of you, the goal is to get the grades that will get you into an excellent professional school. For some of you, the goal is to get the degree. My hope is that in this year, you also seek something that Loyola offers in a very unique way: an education. Life is often a list of missed opportunities. While many of your classes here will be not different than the identical classes at other schools, save for quality, remember that the Jesuit outlook fits with ours in so many ways, in the quest to address the whole person individually and to work toward justice collectively. So, let’s talk about what aspects of your person can be improved upon and how to do so.
I do not know what the future holds for us. Sometimes, we have the choice to be in fear, hope, excitement, or dread. Sometimes elements within our physiology or within our personal histories make those choices difficult. Nevertheless, I always find learning to be an exhilarating experience. Thus, for these weeks, choose excitement. I am certainly excited to see you again, and hope you will schedule time to see me.
And Allah knows best.