All characters, organizations or institutions appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
That's what they call us.
Students at Foothills Christian University who take the rules of the school way too seriously get called FICs. Or sometime they just call anybody who's gone there a FIC. Of course, people who didn't like the school might call one of its graduates a very different name, just by changing one vowel. I guess the founder didn't think of that when he came up with the name for his extremely conservative Christian college early in the 1900s.
I'm a FIC times two, or maybe three or four, because both of my parents went there and got married right on campus, on graduation day. My brother Sam is also a FIC. He graduated three years ahead of me.
My name is Winifred Larramore Hendricks, but you can call me Win. I've always hated Winifred, and don't even get me started on Winny.
My parents didn't meet at Foothills at least—they met in their church growing up, Slippery Rock Baptist Church in Indiana, which sent almost all of its high school kids to Foothills Christian University. After they graduated and got married, they had Sam and me, and we grew up at Slippery Rock too. There was never any serious question in our family about where we would go to college. Boats travel on water, rain is usually wet, Democrats are evil, and We Send Our Kids To FCU. There really wasn't any other way for it to be.
Sam went first and graduated with a degree in accounting, with honors. He married Lisa, also a FIC, and they live a few hours from us with their three kids. He has a great job with Cooper Farminson, the accounting firm. He never talks about his college days, especially at work.
I went next and graduated summa cum laude in elementary education, with a minor in creative writing. At the small Christian school where I teach, I don’t talk about my college days either, mostly because every other teacher there also graduated from Foothills, and we already know each other’s stories.
Keeping up the family tradition, I met my husband Clark at Foothills, but he’s not a FIC. I’ve never been completely sure how he got to Foothills at all. He is the only person in his family who ever went to church, and somehow, from going to that church once a week, he ended up at FCU. His family thinks he’s nuts. We met at the beginning of my sophomore year, when we had assigned seats next to each other in chapel for a semester. You see, at a college like Foothills, you are required to attend chapel every day, and to make sure that you do, you have an assigned seat, and a row monitor who takes attendance. They switch the seating assignments up every so often, and it’s actually kind of a nice way to meet people.
So Clark and I sat next to each other every day for a week, and we spoke to each other before the service each day and then separated to go to our classes. He was nice and I was interested, but I didn’t realize he was interested back until Sunday afternoon after church, when he somehow showed up at the same table as me, for Sunday dinner.
That’s another thing I have to explain to you. When I attended Foothills, back in the mid-eighties, we had assigned seats for Sunday dinner, which wasn’t really dinner. It was Sunday lunch, held right after the required on-campus Sunday morning church service with assigned seating there too. So I looked up in surprise when Clark stood at the seat across the table from me, just before we all sat down. There were five thousand students on campus, with a couple thousand at each meal, and he ended up at my table? What were the odds?
They were pretty good, actually. I found out later that he had switched places with a friend when he saw where I was sitting, and he somehow convinced the table hostess that the change was needed because of his work schedule. That’s Clark for you—he has a smile that makes you want to go along with whatever he says. He’s a great choir leader now, with that smile and all that southern charm of his. He graduated one year ahead of me, with a degree in music education, and now he’s the minister of music at First Baptist Church of Slippery Rock, which is much larger than Slippery Rock Baptist Church. We have almost six hundred people every Sunday morning. Clark leads the choir and directs the instrumentalists and plans the cantata each year, and he preaches an occasional Sunday night message when Pastor Stewart is out of town. I teach fifth and sixth grade Sunday School.
We have the perfect life in a lot of ways—a better than average education, secure jobs, and two beautiful kids. The Lord has really blessed us, and I had no complaints for a long, long time.
My first memory of Foothills is when we were driving in the front gates, past that little shack where campus security sits, and my mom told me to get rid of my cigarette. She said they weren't allowed at Foothills. I asked, "How the hell does a school with a name like FU get off telling me what to do?" This was the eighties, remember. People smoked a lot more back then. But I took the cigarette out of my mouth and threw it out the window, just so my mom wouldn't bitch. It almost hit one of the security guards, who got really pissed. My mom shook her head, and that was my introduction to FCU.
FU just sounded a lot better than FCU. I called it that a lot.
I was a rebellious teenager, and my parents decided that I needed a little discipline. Some of the kids from my church went to Servant's Christian College, and that's where my parents first threatened to send me after I finished high school. But I knew from other kids in my church youth group that Foothills was actually considered more "liberal" (you didn't have to wear a tie after lunch!) so I begged my parents to let me go there instead. I didn't know that much about it, as you might have guessed from the cigarette story. But anything had to be better than Servant's.
It didn't really matter too much to me anyway. I was just marking time until I turned twenty-one. Mom and dad said they would pay for my education until I turned twenty-one or until I finished college, whichever came first, and then I'd be on my own. Foothills had a ton of majors, and I decided I'd take as many of the most general courses that I could, like history and science survey classes, and transfer as many credits as I could over to a community college when I left. I never planned to get a degree from Foothills, and I never did. I just read my books, lied to my parents and advisors about what my major would be (it kept changing so I could keep taking easy classes), and tried to stay out of trouble. That was kind of tough. Getting in trouble at Foothills is way too easy.
There were rules for everything: when to get up, when to go to bed, what to wear to class, when you could date, where you could date, and what you could watch or listen to in your own dorm room. (Hint: not much.) There was a prayer meeting we had to go to every freaking night, and chapel every freaking day. We even had room chores. College students. Room chores. Think about that one for a minute.
Good memories of FU: meeting other guys who hated the school as much as I did. Figuring out how to skip chapel a couple times a week so I could sleep (it involved hiding in the closet in my room until they finished room check). Getting a job with a landscaping company in town, so I could get off campus and earn real money.
Better memories: they all involve rules that I broke. BIG rules. Having that job off campus meant I could go out drinking with my work buddies. None of them cared what school I went to, so if I was with them I could just do whatever and not give a shit. There was also the time I snuck my girlfriend off campus, in the trunk of my car, so we could go see that movie Dirty Dancing together. (She said she had the time of her life.)
In the dorm, the most fun I usually had was listening to "uncheckable" music at night, under the covers in my bed, with headphones on. Yes, our personal music was checked, and yes, we could only listen to stuff that was approved ahead of time. I can't believe we actually put up with that crap as college students. My philosophy: there's no bad time to listen to a Queen song. What FICs don't know won't hurt 'em. The best memory of all: when I tricked out my TV with a computer screen, and set it up so that when I was watching something in my room and the dorm room door opened, the image switched back to a computer screen. Nothing to see here, I was just doing my homework, officer, I mean Mr. Hall Monitor. No, we weren't allowed to watch TV in the dorm room either.
My worst memory of those crappy four years: a friend of mine named Brian got "convicted" about the flatware we had dared each other to smuggle out of the student cafetorium without getting caught. Convicted didn't mean he was found guilty of doing it—it meant he felt so guilty that he turned himself in to the administration for it, which was fine with me. I didn't give a shit if he felt guilty. The problem was, Brian thought that him feeling guilty meant that I should feel guilty too, and if I didn't turn myself in then he would do it for me, and I might get expelled, halfway through my last semester. Turning other people in was a Super Spiritual Thing to do there.
So I got called in to the dean of students to be confronted. The dean had a real burr up his ass right then, cause he'd already had to expel about thirty kids that week, all for stupid stuff. He told me to repent and admit what I did. They were going to search my room and when they did, then I would get in trouble for stealing and lying. I told him I had no idea what he was talking about. No way was I going to lose my last fifteen credits over a stupid fork and knife. Besides, I had already thrown them away.
After they searched my room and came up empty, Brian got fifty demerits for lying. The bastard. I finished the year and turned twenty-one on the third of May, which was also the last day of exams. Three days later me and one of my friends got a place down by the beach and I enrolled in community college, thanks to all that landscaping money. Most of my credits transferred since it was only a community college, and they'll take almost anyone who has a heartbeat and a credit card. I ended up getting a degree in electronics—this was the 80's, remember? Since then the field has kind of morphed and now I'm a computer network administrator.
My girlfriend, Janna, who moved in with me three years ago, can't relate to my college stories at all. She went to Berkeley. When we talk about what college was like, it's like we're from two different planets. I'm the alien.
Oh, I almost forgot—my name is Jonathan Mark David. My parents gave me a "Biblical" name hoping I'd be a preacher. You can see how well that turned out.
My name is Alecia Grace Harrington, and I have taught piano at Foothills Christian University for twenty-two years. I am so thankful to have the opportunity to serve the Lord in the godly atmosphere we have here at Foothills Institute. When I first came here the school's slogan was, "God's Best Choice For You!" and for me, that is exactly what it has been.
I grew up in a strong Christian family. In fact, I went to church for the first time when I was four days old! Growing up, we went to church every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and for Wednesday night prayer service. When I got a little older I joined the choir, first by singing in it, and then by playing the piano to accompany it, so I was in church on Tuesday evenings too. I loved every minute of it—hearing the voices of the men and women unite in harmony and praise to God, sharing prayer requests with each other, looking forward to the special performances we had at Easter and Christmas, knowing that I was a part of making amazing music that moved people's hearts.
I've always been very musical. My parents paid for me to take piano lessons, but I taught myself several other instruments and a little bit about writing music. When I started thinking about college, I wanted to be a piano performance major, but my father said I should take something more practical. He said if I got an education degree along with the piano, then I wouldn't have to worry about supporting myself if I didn't make it as a concert pianist. I've always been grateful for his advice.
When I was in high school a choir ensemble came from Foothills Christian University to hold a sacred concert at our church, and I was so impressed with what I saw, I wanted to run away and join the choir right then! They were so happy to sing, and they had so much joy in their faces! I was also impressed by the technical aspects of their singing and their music in general, and I knew immediately that FCU was where I wanted to be.
It almost didn't happen. I had applied to Foothills at the beginning of my senior year in high school, and I was accepted right away, but that winter my father died suddenly of a heart attack while he was shoveling snow. After the initial shock had worn off, my mother came to me and said that she wouldn't be able to afford to send me to Foothills after all. It broke her heart and it almost broke mine too. I just knew this school was where I supposed to be, but now it wasn't going to happen.
Then my pastor called and told my mother that the church had decided to take me on for support for one year, the same way that they take on missionaries. To this day I don't know why they did it. Maybe it was out of respect for my father's memory, or because they appreciated all the work I did with the choir—whatever the reason, God put it in their hearts, and I was able to go that year after all. And at school, they gave me a work scholarship job, so I took all that money, plus the money I earned working over the summer, and managed to pay for most of my second year without asking my mom for anything. By then my mom had a better job, and I continued to do my work scholarship job and to work in the summers too. When I graduated, almost all my schooling was paid for.
I never planned to work here at FCU full time, but in the spring of my senior year I was asked to become a graduate assistant. That was not my plan! I thought I would have met Mr. Right by then, and we would have been married and I would have become a stay-at-home mom. But the Lord always has better plans than we do! My father was right—a music education degree was much more practical than just a piano performance degree. Without that education training, I would have had a much harder time moving from a graduate assistant position to a full time instructor, and I can teach more than just piano—sometimes I help tutor students who are struggling with the guitar or flute.
I haven't completely given up on finding Mr. Right, but if the Lord never brings him to me I'll be content. I have my friends on faculty and staff here, and plenty of opportunities to hear some of the best Christian music being made anywhere. And I am so grateful to the school for making it possible for me to finish my education, and to keep working in the field I love. The school had another slogan at one time: Opportunities For You! I still tell my students today, this school can have opportunities for you, if you are willing to work hard and follow the Lord's leading.