"I was surrounded by students facing the same uncertainties and the same fears in the same silence"
Dear Dr. Westmoreland,
Before I composed this letter, I read through so many others from students, faculty and fellow alumni. Each one is beautiful, each one a wonderfully human piece of truth. As I read, I was struck again by a reality that I have stumbled on over and over again since I graduated: so many of us struggled silently with our identities while at Samford and only came to terms with who we are after leaving. As silly as it sounds now, I thought I was the only one--or at least one of a very, very few. I thought my uncertainties and fears were unique. I've come to learn over the past few years that, entirely unbeknownst to me, I was surrounded by students facing the same uncertainties and the same fears in the same silence. The group leader I had a crush on under the guise of "admiration for her leadership;" the guy in one of my classes who constantly made me laugh; the girl a few years younger than me that I passed in the hall so many times; even one of my close friends, with whom I had innumerable philosophical and theological conversations--we were all just trying to figure out how to reconcile what we believed and what we felt.
It would be funny if it weren't so sad.
As I read these letters and recall conversations and feel my heart break for my brothers and sisters who walked around our beautiful campus feeling just as alone as I did, I come again and again to the thought, "If only we had known!" If only we had felt safe enough to stop pretending and turn to one another and be honest. If only we had sat down together and shared a cup of coffee and asked the questions that we were so ashamed to voice: "Does same-sex attraction constitute a betrayal of Christian beliefs?" "Can God still accept me if I'm gay?" "What does the Bible actually say about sexual orientation?" And perhaps more than anything, "Am I really not alone in this?"
I firmly believe that God orchestrates our lives with love and care and intentionally. I believe that God put me on the Samford campus at a particular time and in a particular situation and that I would not be the person I am or have reached the place that I have had I been a student at a different university. I believe the struggles that I experienced there are as important as the lessons I learned and the goals I achieved, academically and personally. But if it can be helped, I do not want any other student to ever feel the way I did, the way my peers did--ashamed and alone. I pray that one day, the students on campus are able to walk into a safe place and look at one another with a sigh of relief and say, "You too? I thought I was the only one." I pray that Samford Together is allowed to become that space. And I pray for you, Dr. Westmoreland, and your continued leadership over a community that is so important to so many people, myself included.
Katherine, Class of 2011