As final exams wrap up at Davis & Elkins College, students are preparing to return home to celebrate Christmas with their families. This holiday season, a miraculous and magical time of the year, has already touched my heart. In large part, I have our students to thank. I offer but a few examples.
A highlight of the academic year is our Festival of Lessons and Carols. This year, as in the past, we partnered with our friends at Davis Memorial Presbyterian Church. With the pews filled by members of the Elkins community, as well as the campus community, we gathered to hear scripture, beautiful music and the spoken word. D&E’s Concert Choir, under the capable direction of Liz Marshall-MacVean and Donna Baroudi Huffman, did not disappoint.
These talented young men and women animated the Biblical story of Christmas with moments of high praise as well as deep reflection. The Rev. Laura Brekke Wagoner, the College’s Benfield-Vick Chaplain, preached the age-old story on both a relational and whimsical level as she invoked Dr. Seuss to remind us of the true meaning of Christmas. The carols and candlelight soothed my soul and inspired all in attendance to share the divine light with a world experiencing far too much darkness.
Sponsored by the Student Assembly, 40 children in Elkins and Beverly experienced the tangible love that is at the heart of Christmas. Our students traveled to Third Ward Elementary and Beverly Elementary to share of themselves and their resources. Sitting among the elementary children, D&E students came prepared to assist the children making Christmas cookie ornaments. They also brought a brightly colored gift bag for each child that included a new winter coat, blanket, snacks and a toy.
These school visits also kicked off “Senators Fostering Hope,” a program similar to Big Brothers and Big Sisters and sponsored by D&E Athletics. Health and wellness, mentorship and support, and academic success are the goals, coupled with lifelong bonds and life-changing outcomes. Children recruited for this outreach program are either in foster care, living in single-parent households or living with grandparents.
The College’s Student Nurses Association purchased gifts for a local family who lost their father to cancer. They delivered the gifts and treated them to a hot chocolate and cookie party.
After learning in Dr. Sarah Garrison’s Freshman Seminar class that many adolescents in foster care were carrying their belongings in trash bags when being removed from their homes, students collected backpacks and needed items to fill them for foster children ages 11-17. Each backpack was filled with starter items such as pajamas, clothing, blankets and toiletries, a D&E T-shirt and a handwritten letter of encouragement from a freshman student in Dr. Garrison’s class.
Love is at the heart of the Christmas message. Specifically, God’s love in human flesh is what Christmas is all about.
With gratitude in my heart to the students of Davis & Elkins College who have given of themselves, the reason for the season has become incarnate in the lives of numerous residents of this community. The miracle and the magic of Christmas has arrived.
The journey continues….