3 AM Thinking

Faith Sandler Words of Faith

In the corner of the room sits a digital clock with large illuminated numerals. It’s a relic from the 90s, looks a bit like a small toaster but offers no special effects. We bought it when my son, now 25, was about three years old. He’d get up entirely too early in the morning, looking for company in the pre-dawn. The idea was that he would not leave his room until the first numeral on that digital clock was at least a six.

This morning, I waited until 4:00 a.m. to get out of bed, looking at that same clock. Calming podcasts had run their course about an hour earlier. My brain seemed determined to flip like flash cards between components of a crisis contingency plan for the people and finances of The Scholarship Foundation and the roster of loved ones with bills they have no way to pay. I doubt there’s anyone reading this who does not understand, at this point in the pandemic and economic free fall that is our current world.

At 59, I’ve learned that 3:00 AM thinking is dangerous. That’s the hour when dragons loom, police show up at the door, and a telephone is terrifying. If I don’t intervene with distraction, I’ll quickly imagine great peril, scrolling through the biblical plagues of Egypt (or our current comparable conditions). Look, I have six family members, 600 students, thousands of graduates and 100 years of history counting on me, not to mention a healthy following for Words of Faith seeking my wisdom…

But wait.

It’s 4:30 now and the birds seem to think it’s morning. I am at my kitchen table alone, but not really. You’re here. Let me tell you what I’ve learned already in the midst of the nightmare.

  1. In crisis, true community comes together. Relationships and common values cultivated over years and years are firmly rooted. We have instinct and capacity beyond imagining.
  2. We are wealthier than we know. Money matters, but honestly I’m feeling safer among those who are resourceful and can see ways to make soup from stones.
  3. People, coalesced around a common cause, are much smarter than those hunkered down and hiding.

We are sheltering at home, distanced by design, and worried. In the dark, in just one brain, that’s scary. But the light comes daily, no matter what I do or don’t do. So this blogpost, that cup of coffee, the six-month crisis contingency plan taking shape, and the graduate student who called me yesterday in tears because he’s not allowed to visit his mentally ill mother in assisted living…all are evidence that Faith and The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis will be strong, even in this terrible storm.

This week, we announced the cancellation of our biggest centennial celebratory event scheduled for August 5, “Graduating Greatness” (read more here). Are we afraid the virus will still prohibit large events? Do we think graduation or greatness will be endangered in five months? By now, you should know better about us.

We are 100 years and counting. We don’t have to pause too long to know that our students, their families, and our community are suffering. Our priority is clear, and $50,000 that would have underwritten an extravaganza of celebration is now directed to emergency support for students in crisis, so that they may eat, take shelter, finish the semester with internet access for online classes, get home to be with loved ones, talk with one of our advisors, and maybe, just maybe, sleep past 3:00 a.m. now and then.

– Faith