Westmont Magazine Weather-Tested at Westmont
The rain in Spain may stay mainly on the plain, but in Santa Barbara it knows no such restrictions. At least not this year. Like most of the West Coast, Santa Barbara has received a significant amount of rainfall, especially in the weeks just after Christmas. Personally, I’m not one to complain about rain in Santa Barbara. In the first place, we need it. But second, I think it’s rather good when humans have to bend to weather, rather than the reverse. This may be a quirk left over from New England. But I think it’s slightly theological.
Whatever the case, the rain was both a blessing as well as a curse. And while our lakes received a replenishing supply of water, various parts of the central coast were impacted by mud slides and roadway hazards. The worst, of course, was the disaster at La Conchita, which resulted in the significant loss of life. Much more modest was a gush of water that raced down from Mountain Drive (due to a blocked drain), and found its way into the first floor of two Armington suites. It was the first day of the spring semester, which means that students had just arrived the day before, with many of their unpacked worldly possessions still resting comfortably on the floor. At 8 a.m., a few students noticed that some of these items were floating rather than resting, and they woke up to discover a foot of water in their room.
It was a mess, to be sure, but that’s only half the story. Because Highway 101 was closed for nearly a week, many members of our physical plant staff could not get to campus. And for a few hours, I was wondering how we were going to be able to cope. No one else on campus seemed to have such doubts, however. Within a short amount of time, students, faculty and staff were pitching in to rescue equipment, assess the damage and begin transporting the victims to other spots on campus. In practical terms that meant that displaced students had to make their beds in lounges of various kinds and occupy any other vacant space with a roof over it. The conditions were less than pristine, but the attitude of workers and students alike was over the top.
My prayer is that we would learn in these moments what is really good and right and put it into practice 24 hours a day. My encouragement is that within this community we get pretty powerful examples of precisely such behavior on a fairly regular basis.
What struck me a few days later, as I reflected on what had occurred, was how completely normal the thing seemed. But how entirely abnormal it was, in reality. It was normal, of course, because that’s how people around here respond when there’s an immediate need. I saw it in the response of faculty and students to the tsunami in Asia, as they shared their resources and prayers for those they had never met. And I saw it again in the response to a much less severe problem on campus, but which nevertheless was a significant displacement for quite a few of our students. In both cases, the only question was, “What can I do to help?”
But, of course, this is not the way things typically are. Jesus’ story of the good Samaritan hits home because it is much easier to be the priest and the Levite than the one who helps a stranger in need. My prayer is that we would learn in these moments what is really good and right, and put it into practice 24 hours a day. My encouragement is that within this community we get pretty powerful examples of precisely such behavior on a fairly regular basis. I’m grateful for the way that my teammates at Westmont continue to educate me. I’m even more grateful, however, for their services rendered, both here and around the world.
The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain. Christ’s reign at Westmont, however, needs to be everywhere. All the time. Christus Primatum Tenens, in every season.