It’s 10:28 on the night before St. Patrick’s Day and the beginning of the NCAA Tournament. Less than a week has passed since Spring Break and yet the stress of mid-terms and the looming housing selection process ensure that stress and anxiety have returned to their pre-break levels. Students begin to trickle into the Keyes North entertainment lounge, home to a big screen TV, foosball and pool tables, as well as a few cushioned couches and chairs. Some come in straight from their books and homework, others arrive in their pajamas – pillows and blankets in hand. Before long there are about forty Keyes residents sitting in the comfy seats or hunkered down on the floor with their blankets. They chat happily in a familiar way that is no different from the chatter to be heard on the dreaded Newton shuttle or in Stuart dining hall. Their chatter continues as the overhead light is turned off, leaving only the light of a few strategically placed electric candles. A bell is struck once and the room becomes almost instantly silent…the kind of silence that the nuns of my grammar school could have only wished to achieve with a single bell’s ring.
John Glynn, a master’s student in the School of Theology and Ministry as well as the residing peer minister in Keyes Hall, is responsible for the ringing of the bell. He warmly welcomes us to “Peace & Cookies,” the weekly reflection that has brought us all together. He encourages the room to think carefully about where they find themselves in this moment as he encourages them to acknowledge what it is that they want to get out of this night. For the next 20 minutes, the only sounds emanate from John’s speakers. As they listen to tunes that they have heard hundreds, if not thousands of times, they hear the words and the melodies with new ears. A line that may have been forgotten as quickly as it was sung during a car ride or a treadmill-run takes on new meaning here. As I sit and consider the thoughts and the questions posed by these words, I am not able to keep my mind from jumping to other things. I think, “Maybe there is something else I experienced during my day or my week that can take on a new meaning now that I have the time to consider it in a different light. Let’s see…” One song follows the next and finally when a soft instrumental number finishes John waits a moment before beginning a poem. As he recites its verses I can feel myself becoming ever more aware of the sense that the mood has changed. Once a room of chattering freshmen, then filled with the sounds of music that helped move us to reflection, the lounge is now a place where the sincerest thoughts and hopes are being offered up in form of a shared prayer. A palpable solemnity descends.
The bell chimes again and the room inhales and exhales deeply three times, once for each ring. With each outward breath, I sense our combined spirit being offered up only to be returned moments later as we inhale again together. As I breathe and prepare for the end of the reflection, I am acutely aware that God is present with us. And when I open my eyes to see the room full of my residents opening theirs – seeming at least a little refreshed and more at peace than before – I am so happy that this happens in my community and so sure of the reasons why this room is full every week.
Ryan Mulderrig works in the Office of Residential Life at Boston College, where he serves as Resident Director for the Keyes Community.