Tension hovered over the campus the next few days.  Picketers approached any car that wanted to enter the grounds.  Professors didn’t attend classes.  Good students worried about the status of their year, while bad students partied and drank.  I could feel the stress crawling through the residence hallways like a lurking monster.  The only respite I found was to walk by myself through the grounds, or to go off campus.

            Fortunately, our school was in one of Toronto’s nicest neighbourhoods.  Off the Bridle Path, most homes were worth millions.  There were trees everywhere.  Our own campus had been a wealthy family’s estate, bequeathed to the university for educational purposes.  The manor house, with its large rose garden, was now home to a student pub, art gallery and offices.  I enjoyed the crisp autumn air and the firework display of the leaves on the many trees almost as much as I had hated going to class.

            A lot of students were vacating the dorms to go home until the crisis was over.  Those that could.  Many lived in the residence because home was in another province or country.  Teri had been gone most of the week, and as a consequence, Daniel was grouchy.  As I came back from my walk, I spied him down the hall talking to a girl I recognized as Melody, one of his flings from earlier in the year.  She was laughing at something he said, and then brushed her hand down his thick arm.  I shook my head and went back to my room.

            By Friday I barely remembered the week.  I think that I spent most of it sleeping, catching up on the lack of rest from the past few months.  The residence was eerily quiet, like a ghost town.  I was bored stiff, having caught up on my readings and few assignments.  Going home for the weekend to work seemed a welcome break; at least I would be doing something, instead of just wasting time.

            My uncle drove up at the bus station.  I noted his grim expression immediately upon entering the vehicle.

            “What’s wrong?”

            “I guess you don’t need to worry about going to church this week.  It’s cordoned off for a police investigation.  Someone set the church school on fire.” He sighed, his fingers tightening on the steering wheel.

            “Who would do that?” I asked, my voice loud with outrage.  I felt my heart squeeze in my chest.  I put my hands on the dashboard for balance, trying to catch my breath.  My uncle watched this in silence.  I felt a roll of vertigo:  a mixture of rage, frustration and nausea.  When I came to my senses, he was watching me, quietly.

            “There are times in our lives where everything changes.”  He said unexpectedly.  “Sometimes we lose ourselves in those changes.  Sometimes we are tempted to become someone else.  And sometimes we find parts of ourselves that we never knew existed and become more fully what God made us to be.”

            He grew silent, and I realized that this was the longest speech I had ever heard him make.  I thought about asking him what he meant, or why he was telling me this.  Then I realized that part of what he was telling me was that I was responsible for figuring it out for myself.

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