Viewpoint: People you meet at Baylor can surprise you— let them

It’s my final semester on campus and predictably — to cope with a fear of having regrets — I’m making an effort to do things I wish I had done a long time ago.

Tortilla tossing at the suspension bridge, going to every away game and spending an afternoon at the marina might be on some “Baylor bucket lists,” but this university’s richest offering lies in its faculty, staff and students.

I wish, instead of sitting two tables away from an elderly man who ate breakfast alone in Memorial’s dining hall every morning, I had quit pretending to study and gotten to know him.

An elderly woman often waited on a bench outside the McLane Student Life Center late at night.

I wish, instead of making a beeline to my car while catching up with text messages after work, I had taken a moment to sit with her and talk.

Instead of complaining that none of my friends were in my classes, I wish I’d realized it was an opportunity to connect with students outside of my social circle.

I only have four months left, but some of you reading this have more time here.

You have the opportunity to stop making the mistake of missing out on the people you’re surrounded by early in your college career.

Still, four months is enough time to make a difference.

Last week, I went to the Student Life Center, where I knew I’d find the woman I’d passed by in silence for three years.

A member of Baylor’s tousekeeping team for eight years, 87-year-old Vicenta patiently listened to my stilted Spanish and told me about herself.

She told me about her seven children and 21 grandchildren.She told me about tending her garden of flowers and fruit trees—her favorite pastime.

A few days later, completely by chance, I saw that same elderly man I had seen in Memorial in Penland’s cafeteria. He was eating his meal at an empty table in the crowded dining hall.

I asked him if I could sit with him, and after introductions we chewed in silence for a little while.

It was difficult for him to hear my voice above the din in the room, but with effort on both sides, we were able to carry on a conversation.

I soon discovered I was eating lunch with one of the biggest All-University Sing fans at Baylor.

Jackie has been a Baylor employee for 27 years and works in the Student Union Building.

Each year without fail he buys four tickets for Sing— one for each Friday and Saturday night that it runs, and attends Pigskin every fall.

In case you were wondering, he approved of this year’s top eight acts, although he wouldn’t reveal his favorite.

In just the first week of classes, the personalities and thoughts of classmates I’ve sat next to in silence for years have come out; we all missed out on a lot of stimulating conversations and laughs by keeping to ourselves until now.

None of us ever really know how much time we have left.

All petty distinctions we make and concerns we have are insignificant in comparison to the potential reward that lies in human interaction, even with a stranger.

Many Baylor students are familiar with the awkward second— or third, or seventh­— meeting with a one-time acquaintance.

Instead of pretending to be engrossed in a text message or a unique blade of grass to the right of the sidewalk, just smile.

It’s not always easy and can be humbling, but making an effort to get to know your professor, a staff member you see regularly or the friend of a friend you’re always running into will make your college experience worth the money.

Jessica Chia is a senior journalism- news and editorial major from Lyndon, Kan. She is a lab reporter for The Baylor Lariat