When I was in college, I took an introduction to literature class my freshman year. I figured there would be reading, writing, maybe a few projects or essays, some presentations, that sort of thing. I expected to read a few books and give reports on them, or at least have discussions. Much to my surprise, that is not what happened. I mean, we read a few books, and we wrote a few papers, but there was so much more to it.
From the very first day of that class, I knew it was going to change my life. I marched up the steps of the old Smith building, shivering from the deep winters of Rexburg, and tried to keep warm as I walked towards the classroom. On the door, there was a sign. A few other students had come at the same time, and we all sort of stared in wonder and confusion at the sign. “Intro To Lit Class – Meet by the pool in the gym”. Well, that was interesting. Why would there be a literature class by the pool? We all started on our way. Once we got there, my professor briefly introduced himself and asked us to meet him back in the water once we’d changed into proper swimwear. Of course there was a huge uproar among the younger girls, though I was too shy to be included. But, we all did as he asked and before long, we were all introduced and playing water polo while discussing the rules and policies for the class.
Needless to say, that was definitely the most unusual start to a literature class I’d ever experienced. But it wasn’t to end there, no, my professor had more plans.
The second day of class, we met in the classroom, but our professor informed us that we would be going on a little field trip. He said, “Today we’ll be discussing beauty. Beauty in all things.” We all, of course, expected to be going to the famous gardens of BYU-Idaho. Where else in Rexburg was there to be found such beauty? Imagine our surprise as we passed right by the gardens and made our way to the power plant. Once again confused and wondering what on earth was going on, we looked around the plant trying to decide why our professor thought to bring us here for a discussion on beauty. But, soon, we started to realize that it wasn’t about the kind of beauty we are used to seeing. It wasn’t about seeing pretty colors and smelling flowers. It was about understand the beauty in the way modern technology works. Understanding the beauty of knowledge and imagination. Understanding the beauty of invention and the great blessings the Lord has given us, the great conveniences of this world. We discussed how something so mundane and boring could be beautiful, and by the end of the class, I certainly had a renewed interest in the “mundane and boring”.
Several weeks later, as I walked into the classroom on morning, now learning to expect that unusual things were the norm for this course, I saw that all the desks had been pushed to the edges of the room. There was a great empty space in the center, and my professor instructed each of us to have a seat on the floor. As the students trickled in, and everyone was eventually seated, our teacher told us about a mining accident that had happened some time previous. He told us about the mine, the miners and what had transpired.
The mine had collapsed. Many miners were inside, and they were all in danger. If they didn’t get help soon, all of them would perish. They sought for help, but little assistance was to be found. Soon, a group of miners found a little crawl space. Hoping that they would be able to save everyone, they called the miners over. To their dismay and horror, only 5 would be able to make it through this crawl space. Sadly, those 5 went, and everyone else was left behind.
This story had set the mood. We were all feeling very humbled about the joys and conveniences we enjoy here. But what happened next is what changed my life. My professor posed this same scenario to our class. Suppose we were all trapped in a mine, and only 5 of us were allowed to live… who would go and who would stay behind? As we discussed the situation, the room became thick with emotion. We would let one of the twins live so their parents wouldn’t be losing two children at once. We would let the couple who was married live because they had a young child at home. We would let the young man who was recently engaged live so his dear fiancée wouldn’t be left alone. And we would let the young mother live, so her husband wasn’t left with two children at home. The rest of us were left to our fates. By this time, most of us were starting to get choked up. Our professor asked each of us, even those who were allowed to live, to write a letter to our families and others who are dear to us. Those letters would be given to the survivors, were the scenario a true event. For the next 20 minutes, we sat on the floor writing letters to our parents, our brothers and sisters, our best friends, explaining to them the choice we had made and why, telling them how much we loved them and how special they were to us. Then we each, one by one, folded up our letters and left the room.
That class was the most beautiful class I have ever experienced. I learned so much about the beauty and the wonderful joy of life. I learned not to take those little things that seem so menial for granted. I learned not to waste what was special to me. Because of that unusual first day of class, our class was uniquely suited for the tasks ahead, as we had grown close very quickly. All masks were removed, all facades were lowered. It was just us. And we grew together, we learned together and we experienced things that changed us. I am so grateful for those experiences which helped make me who I am now. I hope that from my history, you can take something important from it and apply it to your life.