The college debt I did not expect

I am graduating with a debt that is impossible to repay.

Let me explain. Elder David A. Bednar shared a story while visiting our campus in January. When he was president of BYU-Idaho, Elder Henry B. Eyring, then an apostle and commissioner of education for the Church, arrived to prep the impending visit of another church leader. Elder Eyring had just been in South America. The two of them toured the Taylor Chapel briefly, then Elder Eyring paused in the quiet of the room, standing near the pulpit as he looked out at the seats. Elder Bednar asked what he was thinking.

“I am thinking about how much we do for so few and how little we do for so many,” he said.

He talked about how the tithes of members of the Church from all over the world paid for the Taylor Chapel.

“And most of the people who have made this beautiful facility possible will never see or step foot in a building like this,” he said. “That is what I am thinking about.”

I am one of those few who has had so much done for them. And as I move closer to graduation and everything that comes after, I carry a burden beyond school loans. I find myself in the debt of those many faithful members of the Church that Elder Eyring couldn’t help but think of during his visit.

The people whose dollars and cents built this campus and made my education cheaper — I can’t ever pay them back.

Even if I could track down each person whose tithes contributed to my experience at BYU-I, how do I put a monetary value on my relationship with my husband — who I met here — or the life we are building together? Could I ever hit a point where I could tell them, “There — that is how much Brian’s love is worth to me. That is how much I value the family we’ll create and the children we will have.

I cannot.

And even if I had not found and married my husband while here, there is no dollar value that can be put on the friends I have gained only because we all came here at the right time to meet. You just cannot put a price on the friends who have taught me and cared about me or for the growth I’ve experienced here.

So my future is one into which I carry two debts: the $20k in loans and interest granted me by the government during my time here, and the other more serious one, which I will hold for the rest of my life.

Perhaps the closest I can come to repaying these people is by living a life looking at others through a more grateful lens. I can remember that strangers’ decisions, great and small, have and continue to affect my life for good.

I can love more. Our world needs that.

Elder Bednar also warned, “Are you turning inward, becoming self-centered and gradually developing an attitude of personal privilege and entitlement?”

I am in danger of feeling entitled and privileged. As time passes, aren’t we all?

It would be too easy to think that because I did the homework and the projects, because I worked multiple jobs, and I stayed through all the trials of school, that I am the only one who can claim victory. I can be proud of and confident in my accomplishments, but I also have to remember I did not build my life alone. This university would not exist but for the people whose contributions brought it into being long before I applied to come receive an education.

My family, my church and my God had huge hands in preparing my path and navigating me down it. My husband’s support helped me through it. Millions of people whose names I do not know made it possible, those who live in comfort and those who live in poverty I’ll never experience.

The challenge moving forward in life is to remember their gift.

Copyright 2015 BYU-I Scroll