Half a dozen heartwarming campus stories

Here are some heartwarming stories from the campus of Southern Nazarene University. They are written in the style of the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series.

Giving it away      |      "I didn't want it to end      |      One bite at a time      |      Deliverance from addiction      |      It changed her life      |      Oklahoma City bombing

1. Giving it away

No one knows how much money Dr. Lyle Tullis gave away to students. I was his colleague for nearly a decade and I never ceased to be amazed at his generosity. He taught sociology; I taught missions.

Our university has an aggressive program of providing cross-cultural experiences for students. Lots of students take advantage of summer experiences overseas. Early on, I discovered that no group left for overseas without some of its members receiving substantial financial help from Dr. Tullis.

It wasn't that he made a lot of money. For one thing, he taught at a church-run institution. As a result, his salary was half of what his counterparts earned in nearby tax-supported institutions.

Other faculty members occasionally groused about the comparatively low pay scale. Not Lyle Tullis. Occasionally a professor would leave our campus for a more lucrative position. A couple of them told me they did so because, with higher paychecks, "I can better provide for my family."

The size of Lyle Tullis' paycheck never seemed to be the most important thing to him. I realized that one day when I was thanking him for helping a student with mission trip costs.

His eyes twinkled as he said to me, "Aw, I've got so much money I don't know what to do with it. So, I just give it away."

Most folks wouldn't have thought that way. Dr. Tullis drove one of the older cars on campus. It was certainly older than almost any of the students' cars. His home, while comfortable, was not the fanciest of faculty homes. But Lyle Tullis lived grandly with the feeling that he had so much money he needed to give it away.

He was one of the favorites on campus. A cynic might say that he bought that approval. But they would misunderstand. Lyle wanted to invest his life, all of it, in people. He'll never leave a large estate, but he will leave a legacy.

2. "I didn't want it to end"

I have a love-hate relationship with 8 o'clock classes. I like to get started that early. Most students do not. They drag in late and many otherwise bright ones look like zombies at that hour.

One day I was really exasperated with it. I was excited about the topic (history of the expansion of Christianity), but no one else seemed to be. I wrote things on the board. I moved around the room. I told stories. I got theatrical. I tried humor. It was useless. The blank looks didn't seem to change. I was frustrated.

I lost track of time. I was about to launch into a major topic when I glanced down at my watch. I was already two minutes past the scheduled end of class. So. I just ended abruptly and the students picked up their book bags and headed out the door to go to another class or to the cafeteria breakfast line.

Watching them retreat out the door, I piled up my own books and notes. I picked up the stack and stepped out into the hall. I was tired and a bit discouraged. I had put everything I knew how to do into that classroom performance and it had seemed for naught. Then, as I started across the hall to my nearby office, a student came out the back door of the classroom I had just been in and caught up with me.

Randy sat about halfway back in the classroom. I thought he wanted to ask why I didn't have those test papers graded yet or maybe he wanted permission to hand in a late paper or . . .

It was none of that. With his eyes sparkling, Randy said "This is the first time I've not wanted a college class to end."

The tiredness lifted. I had done better than I thought. I don't know if Randy will ever understand how much he did for me that day.

3. One bite at a time

Stephen was on campus to enroll when I first met him. One summer day I was headed over to the administration building when I heard someone call my name. I turned around and saw Philip, one of our admissions counselors, standing with another young man. I walked over to them.

As Philip introduced me to the young man, he reminded him that he would be taking one of my General Education classes, Introduction to Biblical Literature.

Stephen looked at me. With a somewhat pained expression, he asked if my class was going to be "hard." Would he be able to pass? I sensed he was reconciling himself to failing before the opening day of classes.

We talked about what the class would cover and all the things he would be expected to learn. It was a course in which we cram a lot of facts and details into one semester. As I talked, I saw Stephen's eyes getting big with fear.

Then I remembered a bit of classical Chinese question-and-answer dialog:

Question: "How do you eat an elephant?"

Answer: "One bite at a time."

I told him to approach his work that way. Set a goal to do all of the assignments and to get them in on time. I told he could overwhelmed looking at all of the work to be done over the entire semester. Or, he could make a master calendar of all the assignment due dates and then go to work on whatecer was due nexxt.

As the fall semester wore on, I learned more of Stephen's story. He had struggled in high school. It had taken him longer to finish than most young people. Family members, including his mother, kept reminding him that he was a failure. But he kept at it and, in the face of their prophecies to the contrary, he got his diploma. Now, in the face of their negative adivice, he had enrolled in college. He told me that before he started classes on our campus, no one had believed he had much potential.

Stephen didn't become an "A" student. He didn't make any honor rolls. In fact, he often found himself on academic probation. One reason was that he never did very well on tests. Still, he managed to pass most of his courses by being in class every day, turning in all of his assignments on time and breaking down his studying into bite-sized digestible portions. By passing course after course. he began gaining a measure of self-esteem. He was a great singer and he was on the school's cross-country team.

Every time I saw him on campus, he would brighten up and, with a smile, say, "One bite at a time."

Whenever he introduced me to one of his friends on campus, he would tell them that he was succeeding when he was supposed to be failing. He said the secret was that he was doing what I taught him before classes ever started: "Take it one bite at a time."

On graduation day, he was romping around in his graduation robe with a bright smile saying, "One bite at a time." [ Other grade-improvement tips ]

4. Deliverance from addiction

"Can I talk to you," Lori said, looking around my open office door one late August morning.

"Sure, come in."

We had known each other. She had earlier been in at least one of the General Education classes I taught. That day, though, I learned a dark side of her that I had never guessed.

"I'm an alcoholic," she said as she closed the door.

Her parents were alcoholics, she said, and she had fallen into the same trap while a teenager. Her pious grandmother, however, had pulled her aside during her senior year of high school. She told Lori that she would help her financially if Lori would come to our school, a small Christian university.

Her grandmother was a member of a different denomination than the one that sponsored our school. I don't know whether the grandmother knew the depth of Lori's problem, but at least she knew that we were an alcohol-free campus and that we also had a redemptive approach to young people struggling with alcohol addiction.

Tears erupted in Lori's eyes that morning as she said, "I'm losing the battle. I'm going to an AA meeting in the mornings. I go to a different one during the noon hour and I attend some evening ones. But I still get so thirsty for alcohol! I don't think I'm going to make it."

I'm not an expert on the addiction to alcohol. I didn't have any sure-fire steps to give her. I did, however, believe in prayer. So I prayed with her.

Then, I asked her permission to tell her story in some upcoming speaking engagements and to ask people to pray for her. She agreed and so, over the next several weeks, I told Lori's story over and over, asking people to pray for her.

Six months went by and I didn't see much of her. We were both busy and she wasn't in any of my classes that year. I thought about her often, however. Then, one day, she peeked around my office door again.

I looked up from grading tests. "How are you doing?" I asked.

"I haven't had a drink in six months," she said triumphantly.

5. It changed her life

Around campus, Angela always looked like she had just stepped out of a modeling magazine. Her hair was always in place and her makeup was on. Her clothes were perfect. Nothing was out of place. I wondered how she always managed to stand out like that. Where did she find the time?

Angela dreamed of graduating from college and moving into a business career in which she would make a lot of money and fulfill her dream of living at a fairly high economic level.

Then she let some friends talk her into joining them on a missions trip to Mexico sponsored by the university. Her group went for a week to a little indigenous tribal village in the interior of Mexico. For the first couple of days, Angela struggled to keep up her beauty-queen appearance.

The people of the village were poor. The streets were just dirt. Barefoot kids were everywhere playing in the dirt in ragged clothes.

At first, Angela seemed repelled by them. She stood stiffly around them with a smile frozen on her face. Then, the children's smiles began to break through to her. About the third day, she knelt down to one child. The little girl reached out for a hug. Before Angela knew it, she had wrapped her arms around the dirty but smiling little girl.

During that embrace, some things began to dissolve inside Angela. She came home, changed her major to elementary education, and has wound up teaching in an inner-city school.

6. Oklahoma City bombing

On April 19, 1995 a truck bomb set off by Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building in downtown Oklahoma City. Less than 10 miles away, students on the campus of Southern Nazarene University heard and felt a boom. At first, they looked over toward the science hall, wondering what the physics students had done this time. It was something far more horrific than that.

A cloud of smoke and dust was still rising over downtown Oklahoma City as radio and television stations began reporting the awful bombing in America's heartland.

I was flying home that day from Europe. As a result, I got the story of a bombing in Oklahoma City in bits and pieces in airports as I changed flights along the way.

The next morning, I looked out over the faces of students in a large general education class. Some looked more tired and worn than normal. Bit by bit I found out why.

As the enormity of the blast damage became evident, a steady stream of students began leaving our campus singly and in small groups. They simply wanted to offer their help. Two or three of them went to a nearby hospital to offer their help. They were put to work as elevator "guards." They were told to keep everyone off the elevators except patients arriving from the blast site.

A couple of carloads went to the Feed the Children ministries warehouse where they were put to work packing boxes of gloves and other items needed by rescue workers at the blast site.

Some went to blood banks to donate blood.

Still others wound up near the blast site where they went to work in temporary kitchens set up to feed the firefighters, police officers, and medical people working in the rescue efforts.

A Hispanic student who went downtown found himself pressed into service as an interpreter right in the bombed-out building itself.

No one had called our campus to request volunteers. No one on our campus had organized their deployment. No one had to. As Southern Nazarene University students watched the horrific scenes on television, these young Christians knew that help would be needed. So they just showed up at organizations they knew would be involved.

It was no wonder that they looked a bit haggard that next day and for three or four days after that.

My dream for Southern Nazarene University

Excerpted from a message given in an SNU chapel service

I have a dream of a campus where students feel that the Gospel is a treasure trove to be enthusiastically shared, rather than a personal decision to be kept to oneself

I have a dream of a campus where students accept Christ's Great Commission with as much excitement as they do His offer of salvation

I have a dream of a campus where what is pursued at all costs is not personal success, but God's will

I have a dream of a campus where students envision how much Jesus will impact the world through them more often than they do about how much money they will make upon graduation

I dream of a campus where the primary role model is not Jonah who runs from the Lord's will but Isaiah who says "Here am I. Send me."

I dream of a campus where peer pressure pushes you into embracing volunteer mission service rather than away from it.

I have a dream of a campus that is a staging area for God's army rather than a stockade fortress to protect the little saints from going astray.

    -- Howard Culbertson,

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