Campus safety and being ready

A Christian Science perspective: God provides each of us with wisdom and strength.

As a professor with an active class schedule, I took special note when national news reports described violence in college classrooms. I began to carefully consider my responsibility for the safety of the students. After several of these reports, campus security leaders issued various protocols regarding appropriate action in the event of a threat to classroom safety. My concern heightened when each communication closed with the reminder that the campus security force could not cover every location all the time. To this observation, I silently responded that my answer lay in trusting God, whom I’ve come to understand as ever present.

The Bible provides numerous accounts of blessings and protection resulting from trusting God’s care and direction. Take, for example, Nehemiah, who discerned and defended himself and others from those who would do them harm as they reconstructed Jerusalem’s crumbled walls (see Nehemiah 2-6). He could not have anticipated exactly how he would fulfill his assignment, but he didn’t just “wing it” – he humbly and earnestly trusted God.

Referring to God as divine Truth, Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy writes: “Divinity is always ready. Semper paratus is Truth’s motto” (“Science and Heath with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 458). I recognized that semper paratus – the Latin phrase meaning “always ready” – is also the US Coast Guard motto. I realized that divine Truth would provide the same wisdom and strength for me that it provides for the men and women of the Coast Guard as they provide ready aid to people in many difficult situations.

In regard to safety on the campus, I took a few specific actions in an earnest desire to express God’s readiness, including memorizing the campus emergency phone number and developing a simple safety briefing for my students, emphasizing preparation rather than fear.

One early-spring morning as one of my classes had just begun, a stranger appeared in the open doorway at the back of the somewhat-isolated room. I approached, asking if he needed help, and received a slight affirmative nod. I found him the closest chair and noted his dazed look.

In an action unlike the norm, he slid his full backpack onto his lap and hugged it to his chest, silently staring at me. Relying on the higher spirit of semper paratus – God’s constant readiness – I prayed something along the lines of “Here I am, ready and prepared to listen to You” as I walked quietly to the classroom phone up front. I called the campus emergency number and explained the situation to the operator, who assured me that campus police officers would arrive shortly.

Several times, I calmly asked the operator if we should stay or leave the room, but she did not really have the information to make that determination. I realized that God certainly knew that all of us were safe in Him and would guide each class member. After thanking the operator, I walked back to the location of the uninvited visitor and, with care, mentioned that anyone who wanted to leave class could do so.

Several students left the room, and then the visitor stood up to leave, still hugging his backpack. Then came this intuition: “Do not restrain him, but do not let him escape.” This might sound contradictory, but it made perfect sense in the moment. The visitor and I exited the classroom together and walked side by side down the hall.

When we reached the lobby, he looked toward the outside door, and I gestured toward the seating area. He sat down just as a campus police officer entered the building. I entrusted the visitor to him and returned to class, expressing my gratitude to the students for their calm behavior and everyone’s safety.

I met the same police officer the next morning on my walk to campus. He mentioned that the visitor had a quantity of drugs, differing forms of identification, and several low-level weapons in his pack. During their investigation, the police also discovered an outstanding arrest warrant for him. Truth’s readiness provided a safe outcome for everyone, even the uninvited visitor who could now receive the help he needed.

In our daily experience, whether the events we encounter seem of great importance or not, we can turn to God for help, and trust in God’s promise – always ready.

Adapted from an article in the May 29, 2017, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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