By Maddie Baughman
Growing up I was taught that God is present not only in chapels and holy sites, but everywhere in our daily lives and work. These teachings never really sank in for me because outside of Sunday morning services, expression of spirituality was not something I frequently witnessed or participated in. My church attendance in high school was minimal, and I was rarely surrounded by people who consistently celebrated their faith, with the exception of my mom. Beginning my Freshman year of college, I did not expect spirituality to be a conscious part of my everyday experience.
When I began my time at UT, similar to many Freshman, I was overwhelmed and very lonely. School had never been this rigorous for me. I was 1,968 miles away from home, and sleeping in a room that felt like it belonged to a stranger. I was having a hard time connecting with people in my classes and hall, and longed for familiar faces and conversations that weren’t about my major or what I was going to do with it.
I had several distant connections to the Episcopal Student Center and reluctantly decided to begin going to services and programming. It took time but I eventually began finding friends within the community and developing a sense of home that had been lacking. Coffee dates, jokes, and going to last minute volleyball games may not have seemed extraordinary, but it meant the world to me. I became close with people I would have never expected, some of whom I had strangely met years ago. The loneliest months of my life slowly became some of the best, as I learned who I liked to surround myself with and who I was as an independent person.
With this awareness of self, I learned that I valued being around a spiritually conscious group of people with various beliefs, questions, and a willingness to discuss. I gained an appreciation for those who shared a desire to pray and eat together. Eating in dining halls was my least favorite part of Freshman year, not because of the food, but the isolation of not eating with my family. There are many connections between spirituality and the sharing of a meal. Breaking bread, blessing food, appreciating where it came from and who created it; these are steps that make me think about what I have and who I share it with. I realized that when eating with the ESC community I not only enjoyed the company of people, but I also appreciated the food that we shared together. Incorporating food and faith encouraged me to think about what small aspects of everyday life, such as eating, mean to me.
This past year has opened my eyes to how faith is not something that is reserved for Sunday mornings. Spirituality is not black and white, and can be embraced in countless different ways everyday. I am still exploring what I believe and how I wish to express my beliefs, but having a stronger consciousness of faith this year has led me to understand what is important to me in my daily life.