I’ve never caught a virgin pinecone.

For most people, that phrase—“virgin pinecone”—means nothing. It might be quite puzzling, in fact. But at my small liberal arts college in the upper left corner of the United States, it is part of campus culture.

At Whitworth University, there is what is known as the “little three.” It’s a bucket list of sorts, a list of small traditions we are supposed to do before we graduate. In the first few days of college, a frisbee hit me straight in the forehead. Check. One off the list. But alas, I never dropped and broke a dish in the dining hall, and I never caught a pinecone falling from a tree. This may seem small and trivial to some, and it ultimately is, but to me it also stands as significant symbolism for the pieces of my college experience that I missed.

COVID-19 has cheated many people of many things—travels, normalcy, and jobs. I know that many of these are much larger hard-hitters than the loss of two months of college and perhaps a college graduation ceremony. But to college seniors, there is also a great loss. We must acknowledge that.

I had to abruptly end my student teaching. I may never see my 2nd grade class again. I gave my last tour without knowing it. I attended my last campus-wide events and sports games. My leadership in Catholic campus ministries? Done. Over with. In what seemed like a dream (or more accurately a nightmare), so much of college was taken from all of us. By the forces of this broken world, we were simply cheated.

And yet?

I do in a sense have it all. I am thankful for the past four years at Whitworth, because they have easily been the best of my life. I have the best friends in the whole world. I’ve had life altering experiences. I’ve seen places all over the globe. I’ve been taught by incredible, intelligent, and caring professors. My faith has blossomed. I’ve received a college education. I’ve become a teacher. I’ve become a better friend. I’ve become more fully myself.

In the end, COVID-19 can take none of those things away from me. It simply cannot. So even in this, I have blessed assurance.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

[Colossians 3:15]

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