By: Elizabeth Wong
It’s the beginning of the school year. Whether you’re a freshman or a senior, it’s the time to say hello to new classes, new friends, maybe a new roommate, and a fresh new semester.
Recently, many of us have said goodbye to things too. If you’re new at Franciscan University of Steubenville, you may be saying goodbye to high school, a previous college, your own room, or your regular time zone.
If you’re a returning student, you may still be saying goodbye to a lot. If you just got back from Austria, you’re likely missing the Kartause. If you’re a senior, you’re getting close to a final farewell to the college years.
A recent goodbye for me was different from most. Several weeks ago I learned that a homeless man in Washington, D.C. named Peter Bis had died. I was overcome with sadness, because I had met this man many times and spoken with him a bit when I was a sophomore interning in the District.
Peter was probably one of the happiest people I met during my trek to the Metro, as I passed him outside the familiar Exxon station on a semi-daily basis. He’d sit on a crate by a tree and say “Good morning!” to everyone with a wave, and add something such as “Four days ’till the weekend!” If you ever had the time, you could stop and chat with him and hear some of his imaginative stories. He always remembered who you were– he was phenomenal at recalling faces.
I was personally sad because I had such warm memories of sometimes the only smiling person I’d see all day during my internship. But then media members, politicians and other Capitol Hill folks began coming out of the woodwork to talk about how Peter had influenced their lives. Numerous articles were dedicated to this man who had no home but in the hearts of the fast-paced Washington society. The local Catholic church, St. Joseph’s on Capitol Hill, offered to hold a memorial service for him, and expected crowds to attend. Clearly, everyone had loved him.
This passing is not unlike our own Tyler Peltier, who passed away suddenly this summer. Having just graduated in May, Tyler planned to do mission work in Africa and film a documentary. Though he was already something of an entity on campus, the news of his death sent the university family into intense prayers for his family, and many conversations about how much he had really meant to Franciscan.
I hadn’t known Tyler personally, but I had spoken to him several times, once when he was working in the mail room; another time after Baccalaureate Mass during graduation weekend. Even The Troubadour had included him in one of our end-of-semester Man on the Street interviews: When asked what he was doing after graduation, he responded “Going to freaking Africa!” Either you knew him, or you knew someone else who knew him.
It may seem odd that I’m bringing up these stories to welcome the academic year. But I feel as though both Peter and Tyler have a lesson for us still at Franciscan: Leave a legacy. I don’t mean to try and make yourself popular, but leave a mark on people’s hearts through your actions and words in daily living. You don’t have to have a terrific life to smile and show some love to a down-on-his-luck household brother or a stressed-out classmate. It’s the simple things, like kind comments, that usually mean the most to others.
Let’s enter this academic year with the simple love that was so frequently shown by our brothers who went before us.