I began college at the University of Central Florida in the fall of 2009. That first year was a rough one for me. I was afraid to step out and meet people, and in that, I felt very secluded. When summer came, I was seriously contemplating not returning and, instead, finishing my degree at the local community college near our house. I weighed the pros and cons with extensive care and, eventually, a little pull within me whispered that my time at UCF was not over. I returned in the fall of 2010 with a new desire to seek out “the college experience” I had always envisioned.

One Thursday night, a few months into the semester, I ventured out of my comfort zone to check out a campus ministry that I had heard about. I entered the giant room, filled with hundreds of bubbly students and instantly felt completely overwhelmed. I found a spot on the far side of the room where I sat quietly and waited for the event to begin.

By the end of the talk, my initial anxiety had vanished and my heart felt so alive. They were talking about community, and about purpose – things I had been desperately craving. I wanted to know more, I wanted to experience these things they were talking about.

As soon as the lights came back on, however, the sea of people dispersed around the room into groups of chatty joyful chaos, and immediately, the feeling of anxiety returned. I did the only thing I knew how and made a B-line for the exit doors.

Not 30 seconds after stepping into the cool autumn night do I hear two voices from behind: “Hey! Wait! Are you leaving?”

I swing around, surprised, and see two of the friendly faces I had seen on stage minutes ago. They wanted to know my name, they wanted to know about me. A simple friendly gesture to these strangers was, for me, a life-changing moment. For the first time in my one-year college experience I felt worthy, I felt accepted. And that was reason enough for me to return.

Fast forward four years and those guys are two of my dearest friends and forever my comrades in changing the world. I often wonder what my life would look like today if they hadn’t took that step of boldness and chased me out of Ferrell Commons. I’m fairly certain I would not have returned the following week or attended the fall conference at the end of the month, where I met some of my best friends and began to fall in love with Jesus.

We were all created with purpose and intention. We are uniquely designed individuals with different ways of thinking and different ways of seeing the world. But something we all have in common is that we all influence those around us. Our words, our actions, our entire lives are constantly impacting others in significant and minor ways.

We all have stories about people who have impacted us and changed our lives for the better. Maybe it was a few timely words from a stranger at the grocery store or a deeply rooted friendship that has forever influenced the person you are becoming. Either way, it was significant.

I wanted to create a space where we can share those stories – where we can celebrate those moments and say thank you. Fridays will be those days. Come back here to read new stories every other week.

I am forever grateful for the simple act of love from these friends and for this story. It serves as a constant reminder to me to listen to that pull in my heart when it’s telling me to say or do something. You never know how significant your small gesture can be to another.

 

(If you want to submit a story of your own, we would love to share it with the Live Alive community! Email letslivealive@gmail.com).