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Make a good ending

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The end of the semester and the end of the 2006-07 school year is upon us. Some of you won’t be back next year due to graduation, travel abroad or transfer to another school. Others will return next fall filled with hope for a fresh start to a new year. Whatever your circumstances, it would be easy enough just to stumble out of here with your suitcases, exhausted and stressed-out from finals, leaving your post- “packed-for-summer-storage” empty, dingy room and the roommates who used to be your best friends – and who are now driving you crazy – in the rear-view mirror.

Don’t do it! Give your best effort towards summoning up the energy to say what you need to say. Tell someone you love her. Thank your friends for their kindnesses. Offer forgiveness, or ask for it. Senior week and commencement offer graduates lots of chances to say “good-bye,” “thank you,” and “I’m sorry,” but the rest of us will have to make sure that such exchanges happen. And as local, national and global events have taught us just recently, there’s no point in waiting until some “appropriate” future time to seek peace, express gratitude or offer love.

Just this past Tuesday, even as the South Bend community was concluding memorial events for Cpl. Scott Severns, a police officer killed in the line of duty one year ago, Cpl. Nick Polizzotto, also a South Bend officer, died after being shot while responding to a “shots fired” call at a local motel.

On Monday, nine paratroopers from the famed 82nd Airborne were killed and 20 more wounded when a suicide truck bomber attacked their convoy. Perhaps no more can even be said that hasn’t been said already about the shootings at Virginia Tech last week, or about the innocent people of Iraq or Darfur dying by the hundreds each week.

But don’t you hope that Cpl. Polizzotto gave his young son a big hug before he left for work on Tuesday? And the students and faculty at Virginia Tech who died so tragically and the soldiers who gave their lives in Iraq – don’t you long to believe that they each had happened to call home or e-mail their moms and dads; that they hadn’t just by horrible coincidence left unresolved an ugly argument with a friend or family member?

Time is precious as the last, partial week of the semester approaches. Finals, packing, storage, travel and work all contribute to making this one of the less-appealing times of the academic year. But if you have even just a few minutes, think about who you need to call or e-mail or text message or speak to. If you have even just a few more minutes, take a look at some of the letters of Paul in the New Testament. At the time of his writing many people, including Paul, thought that Jesus’ return – and the end of the world – was imminent. Paul’s letters reflect a concern to help believers figure out how to live when time could be short; when the “day of the Lord” could come “like a thief in the night” (1 Thes. 5:2). In that same letter, he offers a plea to the Thessalonians that might help us, no matter how challenging it seems at this time of year: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances” (5:16-18).

God willing, in a few weeks most of you will leave and some of us will stay, under much more peaceful circumstances than those our neighbors and fellow university members and armed forces have faced recently. Make a good ending this year. I say “make,” not “have,” because happy endings – differences resolved, love expressed, forgiveness received, gratitude articulated – must be intentional, especially when you have three finals and two papers and a lab and a room to pack up and a summer job to find.

It’s not just going to happen on its own, especially at this time of year. As Paul would say, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful” (Col. 3:15). And if you are sorry, or concerned, or thankful, or you love someone … say so.

This week’s FaithPoint is written by Kate Barrett, director of resources and special projects in the Office of Campus Ministry.. She can be reached at kbarrett@nd.edu

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.