It was very kind, sweet even, for them to invite me to the batch pad.
Last semester, I spent time with a student group that’s creating an important, new educational opportunity. They’re talking about gender, and in particular, the ways we shape and limit our definitions of masculinity (can’t show emotions, can only like certain things, etc.). Then, these students are going into high schools to both talk about these limitations and do training on aggression, boundaries, and sexual assault prevention. Students of all genders are doing this work together, and I think it’s great.
One night at the end of the semester, we put the work away for a night because folks wanted to watch a movie. And kindly, they invited me as well. The 36 year old person showed up at the college batch pad to watch How to Train a Dragon (which is a great movie by the way!)
When I arrived, I knew most of the students, but just a couple were new to me. Then I got a wonderful introduction that made me laugh, because Laura* said, “Hey, you all, did you know… Renee is like…. a real adult!”
And this turned out to be true. Not only am I 36 years old, but also… I brought a legit popcorn maker.
I used that popcorn maker to provide students with movie deliciousness. This included melting butter in a microwave that lives on the floor. Again, college batch pad. It was kind, sweet even, for them to invite me into their space.
I take that privilege of inclusion very seriously and meaningfully. When I knew this movie was going to happen, I said to one of the student leaders, “I mean, this can just be a student night if you’d like” — after all, they were organizing it — but she said, “No! Please come. You’re in the group!” I’m grateful that students want to hang out with a person who is now double the age of a college freshman.
I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit. In relationship with students, I provide from myself, and this includes providing from my own stage of life (turns out that this is more than having a popcorn maker). I work with students, and they’re “real adults!” too. I respect them as adults. This is important.
But I’m also a couple life stages older, and it turns out, there is a lot to provide just from this. I am always providing from my age. And I have found that students value this, especially if they also feel that their adulthood, passions, and wisdom are valued (and they have wisdom in spades).
I have served as a pastor, and several times as a campus minister, within congregations. I think older adults sometimes assumed that students would probably have no interest in spending time with them. But this is very untrue. Students love having relationships across age and life stage. I mean, they spend almost all of their time with people who are 18-25. Why not have some older friends? And often, bonus parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents? That’s special.
Age is a great gift. And this is true in all directions.
*Name is changed.