BARROW: A box, my Bible, a backpack and ants

August 13, 2019

Many youth will begin their journey as college freshmen this summer, and with it can come anxiety.

My college journey began on a sweltering Sunday in the summer of 1992. My parents and two of my siblings accompanied me on the three-hour ride from my hometown of Opelousas to Grambling in north Louisiana.

Everything I owned, including snacks, were packed into a four-by-three cardboard box. The only exceptions were my Bible, my Confirmation Rosary, and a Jansport backpack, all which I kept on my lap. The Bible and backpack were a gift from my home parish of Holy Ghost Catholic Church, a sort of starter kit for my journey at Grambling State University.

We arrived at Grambling, and in less than 15 minutes, my family said their goodbyes and headed back home. I felt totally alone, afraid and unsure of what I should do. It was my first experience with anxiety.

I did not have a housing assignment, so I stayed with my dad’s co-worker’s friend for a week. He was gracious enough to take me around campus and point out key buildings as well as the Catholic Newman Center and the local parish, St. Benedict the Black Catholic Church. The tour helped me gain some familiarity with the campus and began to ease my anxiety.

However, when we returned from our campus visit the four-by-three cardboard box containing all of my worldly possessions, was riddled with ants!

My clothing, my food and belongings were ruined; I was devastated. All that remained intact was my Bible, my Rosary and my backpack. I thought to myself, is this it? The total of my 17-year-old existence was now relegated to the contents of my backpack?

Crestfallen, I walked back to campus, sat down on a bench, took out my Bible and randomly opened it to the Second Timothy and read:

“But you, remain faithful to what you have learned and believed because you know from whom you learned it, and that from infancy you have known [the] sacred Scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” - 2 Timothy 3: 15-17

I have no idea why I took out my Bible. Perhaps it was because it represented my home, which I dearly missed, and it was the only thing not ruined by ants. Maybe the Holy Spirit was prompting me to seek comfort in the Word of God as I began the new leg of my earthly journey.

This story is not an exhaustive representation of my odyssey — many highs and lows were still to come in my matriculation.

However, it is a reminder that if you have the Word of God in your backpack, you are ready for the journey ahead.

Doris M. Barrow, III is a campus minister and director of the Newman Center at Texas Southern University.