by Hugh Stephens, Class of 2018
As the trees begin to explode into hues of red, yellow, orange, I find it hard to describe the beauty that Charlottesville holds in the fall. This beauty marks the end of an exciting summer with winter beginning to show its first signs. As the summer season comes to a close, it seems that the Fellows Program has also arrived at the end of its first cycle. August and September were filled with new beginnings, fresh jobs, perfect friends, and adventures. As the cold begins to set in so do the mundanities of life. Even in such an exciting world the weekly routine has begun to weigh heavy: jobs are, for some, challenging and unglamorous; life is busy; and, believe it or not, the men or women in this program are not as perfect as they once seemed. Amidst all these fresh realities, it is through a weekly meal that I am reminded just how fortunate I am to be a Trinity Fellow.
The lessons and memories I have made around a table are fundamental to the man that I am today. I can still feel the joy that would swell up in me as a teenager walking into my home in Memphis, when the aroma of my momma’s cooking would first waft into my nose. She always sings as she cooks, and her voice has always been molasses to my ears, slow and sweet, reminding me of the joys to come as we would gather together for supper. What I loved most about my family supper is that we committed to that time together regardless of any circumstantial difficulties. Some nights we loathed one another and ended the meal in frustration, but for the most part we talked and laughed with each other, quickly forgetting any tensions that existed. Comfort flowed from that table every time that I took my seat. The table was always a place of renewal in my life, and I am so thankful that it continues to be so in this Fellows year.
Every single Monday, amidst the hustle and bustle of the world, the Fellows gather together for a home-cooked meal, and week after week this evening means more to me than any other. There is nothing that puts my mind at ease after a busy Monday more than walking into the Doran’s home to a bouquet of friendly faces, familiar voices, and delicious smells of the meal to come. Just as with my family, there are times when I wish for a night to myself. A night where I could just watch a movie sometimes sounds favorable to congregating with twenty people, but these feelings quickly dissipate into a cherished affection for all who have come to feast together. Something almost magical occurs when eating with someone and pouring out past experiences, feelings, or even what has happened during the past twenty-four hours.
After supper, music permeates the living room and fills us all as we gather for worship. What a blessing to be able to pause on a Monday evening and re-center our lives after the opening day of the work week. Worship is succeeded by a hodge-podge of various speakers, seminars, and discussions. Missionaries working for Surge swept us away to Africa as they shared their experiences with us; anger swelled within us as we discussed the pain of the August 12th rally in Charlottesville; and we have heard from one another the ways in which we have seen God in the simplicities of life. Most importantly, we gather. We spend time together, and receive the imperative reminder that at the end of the day, even in the loneliest of weeks, we have a family here. The perfect bookend to a wonderful night is the singing of the doxology and the charge to go out and bring the renewal and joy of Christ to our world. As I wander back to my car each week I thank God for the feast given to my body and my soul.
The cold of fall has always been, to me, a welcomed friend. I enjoy the feeling of crisp air on my skin and in my lungs and the warmth wrapped around me by my favorite sweatshirt. It gives me a feeling of comfort that the warmer months simply do not offer. So too, the mundaneness of life, the annoyances in friends, and the longings for home force me to wrap myself up in the things that give me warmth. The beauty of this program is not that all aspects of life are perfect, but rather that they are not. It is amidst the frustrating mundanities of life that true growth comes, and it is the love that can permeate frustrations that offers genuine warmth. For me, that warmth has always come while gathering around a table.