Jeff and Melissa Burroughs on the LA campus Fall 2020

What an incredible power we have, to walk through the world, making somebody’s day.

–Krista Tippett

Some days are harder than others. They always start the same: the alarm goes off at 5:10 and I head down to make coffee and feed the dogs. There is no turning back; I’m up. But some days it’s just more difficult to summon the courage to face what may come in the day ahead.

This morning I opened some emails my mother had sent me. I had asked her to forward letters she found from her father to his parents when he was a college student at Denison University in 1929-30. While I didn’t recognize all of the names and events, I couldn’t help recognizing similarities and contrasts in my grandfather’s experience and our world in 2020.

A letter from Jeff Burroughs' grandfather

A letter from Jeff Burroughs’ grandfather

It must have been hard to go to college during the depression. Anxiety about money is a theme throughout the letters–there was never enough. Traveling between Vermont and Ohio was a challenge: my grandfather explains that “bumming” is like hitchhiking in Vermont, but more common in the Midwest. He worked to pay his rent at a boarding house, and starts writing most letters at 11pm.

There are happy memories too: the excitement of going to a formal dance and needing to buy a shirt to go with the tuxedo he borrowed from the college costume department; playing speedball on the green; his sincere appreciation for the sacrifices his parents made to help him go to school.

I know that as challenging as these past 8 months have been, I too have wonderful memories: the collective reflection our community did through end-of-year projects in May; the most unique graduation ceremony I’ve ever been a part of; the joy in the eyes of the faculty and staff when we first assembled under the tent in August after a long separation; the found time with my adult children. These are memories that would not exist if we were not forging ahead in this global pandemic.

Inevitably, there will be unexpected obstacles ahead, but I think I’ve turned the corner: I know my best path forward is what it’s always been: to get up and get the day started, taking on challenges one step at a time.

Be well and stay safe.

Jeffrey S. Burroughs