A Meditation on Life In Five Hundred Words (Or Less)

Óscar Reynaga, senior lecturer of Spanish and class dean for Central’s Class of 2027, is pictured with students at an organic coffee farm near San Isidro, Costa Rica. Reynaga co-led the five-week summer research program in 2017 and 2018, among other faculty-led off-campus opportunities.

Where to begin? In a busy airport in California?
Or maybe arriving in a sea of golden cornfields in Iowa?
Or maybe sitting on a bench with all the pretty purple tulips?
Or eating a sweet pastry in the shape of the letter “s”?
What infinite moment makes the most sense?
Ah, yes! I should begin with the wide-eyed confused faces of my students
Listening to a Spanish song and wondering if it will be on the test.
Now when “¡Hola, Óscar!” greets me all across campus
After so many years of teaching
It puts a smile on my face
Knowing hearts and minds have been unlocked
To a new way of seeing the world
A path I treasure like Dorothy’s yellow brick road
Which led me to an unfamiliar place
That I now call Home.

I close my eyes and
In less than three heartbeats, I’m back, 8 years old
Sitting in my crowded living room
Staring at the television and imagining myself
In those magical faraway places filled with jungles
And temples and footprints of the unknown
I remember thinking: How do I get there?

I close my eyes again, and wonder,
Was it my mother and father coming home tired from work?
Was it my brothers and sisters’ constant fights?
Was it the endless nights of homework until the sun came up?
It must have been all of it! And love.
A love of life
Down to my every single atom
And up into the endless orange sky
That swept me away to Berkeley
And to study abroad
Across the Andes and into Chile
Up to Perú and into the warmth of México
Over to the blue-sapphire ocean water in Havana, Cuba
And …

What an honor to guide my students on similar journeys.
To know that we get to share these moments
And memories that will live on forever
For many who were afraid to leave home, as I too once was,
Discovering that their family’s love could extend far and wide
Even across oceans and continents
On the steps of Machu Picchu
Swimming in the ancient cenotes of the Yucatán
Deep in the lush green forest of Costa Rica
Their warm embrace always found them
Like a strong elastic band that catches you when you fall
And springs you forward when you are afraid.

As Central College students
Just know that your story does not end here.
The knowledge you carry today is only the beginning.
As you leave to move freely in the world
As educated engaged citizens, confident and unafraid,
Use your love of knowledge and wisdom
To give meaning to even the smallest things
To respect and to love those who you may never meet
But who share this world with you,
To show compassion and be of service
To those who do not have your same privileges
To do the right thing, even when no one is looking
To love yourself and to love others.
To live without fear.
To never underestimate yourself.

Know that you belong here,
Not simply because of fate or destiny
But because of the power of the choices you’ve made for your own life.
To be better than you were a thousand times.
Use it to guide your choices, to guide your purpose in this world
It’s up to you.
Where to begin?

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  • Alan Van Zee


    1:02 pm on March 26, 2024

    What a beautiful meditation, Sr, Reynaga. I truly hope Central will re-embrace its dedication to providing foreign study opportunities for all of its students, as it did during my time there. The closing of these programs has been very sad indeed.