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It Takes Courage
It takes courage to stand up for what you believe is right. With so many pressures to "follow the crowd." Always remember the right way to go is seldom the easy way to go!
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A letter from Mitch Salm (2005):
I come from a pretty small town, and, excluding eye and hair color, everyone is pretty much the same. Everyone shares the same ethnic background and the same culture. Everyone goes to the same parties, sees the same faces, and speaks the same language. Even those “rebels” who try to act like they are from some big city fail miserably at standing out, and usually resort to fitting back in after their façade has worn out its novelty. Most people from my town end up staying there.
They could not be serious.
They were serious. “Just try it,” they said. “Just give the school a chance. Maybe you’ll like it.”
Like it?!? How could I like it? Maybe they didn’t read the brochure carefully enough. Yea, they must have missed the part about it being an “all guys school.” Didn’t they catch the words “Catholic,” “Seminary,” and, worst of all, “Boarding School?” Didn’t they realize what this would do to me? Didn’t they know how much this would mess up my social life, my schedule, and my plans.
I expected my dad to feel for me. He grew up in Chilton, and he knew what I would be missing. Whether he knew it or not, I read his yearbook and knew of all of the crazy and wild things he had done when he was my age.”
He was a guy. He would know about the damage that would be done to me if I were to be separated from girls. Wouldn’t this mess my body up somehow? Didn’t he even consider the emotional and psychological damage that this school would most assuredly be inflicting upon me?
I searched his eyes for some sort of sympathy, compassion, or pity, but there was none.
“Mitch, just give it a chance,” he said.
That was the axe, the final blow, the swift and deciding strike that would determine the rest of my fate for eternity. I didn’t bother to argue with him. I knew it wouldn’t accomplish much, and besides, at the time self-pity looked more appealing then having my father win an argument. Later that day I forced myself to believe that I wanted to go on a weekend visit to St. Lawrence and I almost believed me.
The Thursday of my weekend visit, before I actually got to the “Hill of Happiness,” I told my friends that I would be out of town for the weekend. I was really vague, and thankfully, they didn’t interrogate any further. That morning I had packed my bags, and when the final bell rang at school, my Mom was there to drive me directly to Mt. Calvary. What kind of a name was Mt. Calvary anyway? And what kind of people go to this kind of school? Questions raced through my mind like horses in the Kentucky Derby.
The school was hard to miss as we entered Mt. Calvary. It stood on top of this hill on the outskirts of a little town. As we drove up the hill, I was trying to think of other things, you know, anything besides the painful experience I was about to go endure. My mom drove to the guest house and I got out of the car, busying myself with my bags while my mom talked to Mr. Ken, one of the Admissions Directors. Before I knew what had happened, my mom was gone and I was with ten other guys who I didn’t know.
As you have probably guessed, my weekend visit wasn’t the tormenting anguish I had anticipated. Instead, it was an eye-opening experience that changed my entire outlook on the world. I was blown away. I met kids from all over the world, including places like Chicago, Wisconsin, Korea, and Indiana. We experienced the classes at St. Lawrence as well as campus life on the weekend. We saw the Talent Show, where kids were rocking out in their bands and acting in skits. We hung out and ate pizzas in the Canteen. The students at St. Lawrence weren’t like any I had ever seen. They were mature, but in a different sort of way. People who didn’t even know me said “Hi” to me. They held doors for me. They asked me how I was doing, and they genuinely wanted to know. In one word, I was treated with “respect.”
At St. Lawrence, however, normal class segregation is turned into class integration. At SLS, every freshman is assigned a senior at the beginning of the school year. The upperclassmen are unbelievable signs of maturity and responsibility. The freshmen look up to them, so it only makes sense for the two classes to get along. The seniors act like mentors, friends, and companions throughout the school year. They are there to talk to you, hang out with you, or do whatever. Instantly, when you come here, you have friends.
The culture is amazing. I’ve made friends with guys from India, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Chicago, New Orleans, Vietnam, Laos, Japan, Korea, Wisconsin, South Africa, Indiana, Ghana, Kenya, and South Carolina. I’ve probably missed some places, but I don’t know if any kid here can name off all of the countries that his friends are from. That’s a good problem to have. With so many people from so many different cultures, you are prone to develop an open mind. You will come into contact with people who don’t think exactly like you, who don’t hold the same customs as you, and who don’t talk like you. Diversity is inescapable.
Oh yea, and there aren’t any girls here.”
“What, no girls?!? What do you mean, no girls?”
“No girls?!? How do you live without girls?”
Just kidding. I wasn’t kidding about there being no girls here. Minus the lunch ladies, the teachers, and Sr. Mildred, I am pretty sure that no girls go to this school. I was kidding about that last line though. You’d be surprised how much of a non-issue the no-girls thing is. I mean, sure, it’s tough and school is a lot different without girls, but you get over it. The best part, however, comes later when you come home.
When something is taken away from you for a while and then given back to you, there is a new and full appreciation for that thing. This mentality goes for family, friends, and yes, even girls. You will find yourself treating these things with so much more respect and dignity than you previously did. (And for anyone who’s wondering, girls love to be treated with respect and dignity.)
To be completely honest, I never bought into that “God’s calling” stuff. Before I came to St. Lawrence, I pictured God as this old chess player somewhere in the sky, using humans as pawns. With that image in mind, I couldn’t bring myself to believe that God actually cared about his “pawns,” and trying to picture him calling each and every one of his game pieces was even harder. Still, I wondered, “Why does God want me to do this?”
Imagining Your Future
At St. Lawrence, you are encouraged to decide why you are there. Whether directly or indirectly, the faculty makes it clear that they want the students to find out why they are going to a boarding school in the middle of nowhere. This is a Socratic journey that all who attend St. Lawrence must undergo to find any real meaning in what takes place there. Initially, I figured that if God was calling me to come here, he probably wanted me to get a good education so I could become rich someday and donate a bunch of money to some religious charity.
As you can imagine, this was a pretty mediocre explanation for the Will of God, and I saw through it in a second.
My first day of school was a blur, but I remember laying in my bed that night thinking to myself, “Well, I hope God’s happy.” That five-word thought was dripping with sarcasm, and inside I realized that for the first time in my life, I had accepted a challenge that I couldn’t back out of.
You have a choice!
Contrary to popular belief, everyone who goes here doesn’t become a priest. On my weekend visit, Fr. Dennis, the rector, said, “Do we make you become a priest? No. Do we make you think about God in your future vocation? Yes.” That sums up an attitude of the faculty. They want the students to extend Jesus’ message beyond that building we call a chapel. It is encouraged to take the Gospel message into your actions. Jesus was all about action. If you can’t walk the walk, then talking the talk is useless.
Chiefly, this experience has influenced my actions. I am not blind to the diversity of cultures, beliefs, and lifestyles that people live with each and every day. I am more sensitive to how my words and actions might affect other people. A new caring and need for understanding has been instilled into my mannerisms. In the same token, I am conscious of my own faults and failures, and look to God now more than ever.
In a world of clichés and conformity, St. Lawrence guys stand out. In short, they don’t act like most high school guys. Perhaps that is what draws the large groups of females to the St. Lawrence crowd at social events throughout the year.
You could give this school a try. You could come here on a weekend visit and experience it first hand. I can only write so much on this paper, but what I am experiencing right now, and what you could experience just by giving the school a chance, is amazing.
I recommend that you choose the latter of the two decisions. This school will change your life. I know it’s changed mine.