Last time, I sketched a brief picture of Welcome Week and answered the question “What is my favorite part of Welcome Week?” Welcome Week was a full and hectic week, filled with so many things that I still find it hard to keep it all straight in my mind. My favorite part of that week was catching a passion for the school from the Tri-W’s and my small group leaders. Even though this was my favorite part, it was not the most significant event for me. That distinction goes to The Walk.
Having little idea of the traditions of OBU, I did not understand The Walk. I did not understand why it was the favorite part of Welcome Week for one of the Student Ministry workers I talked with. I could not understand why she would tear up watching the graduating class on The Walk. Of course I listened respectfully, but I did not understand the underlying significance.
I still did not understand the significance when I lined up for the practice walk nor when I lined up for the actual event. There I stood in line, one of several hundred incoming freshmen, laughing and chatting with my friends as if that moment were no different from all the others. Then the Tri-W’s came, walking along the line with their fingers to their lips, hushing the murmur of the bubbly freshmen. A tranquil silence fell on the students, and we started to walk with one foot on the brick. From the Oval to the steps of Raley, we walked in silence. Along the cement path stood all the Welcome Week workers, watching in silence. When we reached the steps, we lined up and waited for the rest of the class.
Once the entire class had finished lining up, the student leaders, dressed in formal attire, spoke, encouraging us to make the most of the time we have on Bison Hill, for soon we, like the speakers before us, would be facing the incoming freshmen as seniors. They finished, and for a few brief moments, all was still.
Then, all the Tri-W’s raced toward the steps where they congregated into a huge mass of students and started cheering for us. Those people cheered for us–those cool college students, those students I was pretending to be like, those students who weren’t supposed to care about freshmen. They were cheering for us. They were excited to see us and were excited to share their home with all of us. Not only did they cheer for us, but they did not stop cheering for us. Honestly, I felt awkward standing up there in the class as they cheered and cheered and cheered. Breaking my solemn posture, I looked around at the other freshmen who, like me, were looking around, trying to understand what to do. The Tri-W’s continued to cheer and cheer, and my awkwardness was replaced by something much better: appreciation. It sent goosebumps down my back when I realized that they were cheering because they cared about us.
At that moment, I realized why The Walk is so special. At The Walk, freshmen are welcomed into the OBU family with the roaring excitement of hundreds of students, and at The Walk, seniors bid farewell to the members of the Bison family who will stay behind. It’s a time for the OBU family to reflect on what it means to be a part of the community and share in its joys and sorrows. It was a sobering moment that I savored. I was part of the OBU family now regardless of whether I felt like I belonged or whether I felt like an impostor. I was welcomed into this family not begrudgingly nor with hesitation, but with excitement. The Walk was significant because I was welcomed into the OBU family during it. Before The Walk, I was at OBU; after The Walk, I was part of OBU.