It’s 11 a.m. You, like most AU students, have probably endured a whirlwind of a morning that began with a thrice-snoozed alarm, lectures, possibly a presentation or two and have ended here—in the audience of Reardon Auditorium.
Of course, your first impulse after sinking into your cushy seat is to check your phone. Who knows what you could have missed on Twitter this morning while you were confined to the classroom?
It’s only natural to scroll through social media, reply to a text or two—and perhaps click open your email while you’re at it.
Before you know it, it’s 11:30, and you realize that you haven’t heard much of what that day’s speaker has said. By then, it’s too late to catch on anyway, so you dip your head and return to your phone, or distract yourself with a conversation or a brief nap.
This experience may not be familiar to everyone on our campus, but it can safely be determined a common (and unfortunately expected) scene at chapel each week.
As college students, we are quick to place the blame for our inattentiveness on our disinterest in a certain chapel presentation or the million other things buzzing in our mind, begging for attention (like homework, emotional stresses or lunch).
Of course, being a college student is tough. But it isn’t tough enough that we can’t tune in to what’s happening before us in the present moment for just 50 minutes—or, at the very least, put our phones away.
We can’t earn a grade for chapel. We aren’t being compensated in any way for our time, so perhaps that is why we are less inclined to listen.
However, consider this: maybe paying attention to what’s unfolding onstage is less about us and more about the person who is standing up in front of hundreds of students, sharing with a crowd of strangers his or her perspective on God and the human experience.
Also, consider how much purposeful effort is poured into preparing a half-hour speech and, for some, traveling many miles away from work, family and friends just to relay that story to us.
Respect for these incredible presenters is due, regardless of whether we agree with the fundamentals of what they are saying—and regardless of whether we got three or eight hours of sleep that night.
Perhaps if we give chapel a chance before slipping into a daydream or unlocking our phones, we will do more than just offer the presenter the respect he or she deserves.
Maybe we will take something away from the experience, and maybe it will be something valuable or even life-changing. Maybe chapel will become more to us than something to dread or sleep through: something to enjoy.