I am the exception.
It’s not that I don’t look forward to it; it’s just that it’s never a break for me. It hasn’t been a break for me since 2010, and if I have my way, it won’t be for the foreseeable future.
Last week, sixty-five families invaded the campus to take part in the third annual West Coast Classic, a tournament organized by Stoa. Stoa is a speech and debate league for homeschooling students, so the sixty-five families delivered seventy-eight students, all between the ages of twelve and eighteen, to battle it out for trophies and qualification bids for their season-ending national tournament.
The hometowns of these families stretched out beyond Oregon; several groups came from California and Washington, and one family traveled all the way from Colorado. Washington competitors took first place in six out of nine speaking events, with California speakers winning the other three. One very talented Oregon debater, Sam Moore, was named top speaker in both parliamentary and Lincoln-Douglas debate, but otherwise the out-of-state crowd eclipsed the locals.
We hosted it during the only two-day stretch, excluding Sundays, that our classrooms sit empty: midterm break. And we spent that Friday and Saturday having a very good time. The competitors were cheerful, excited, and razor-sharp. Many of our own staff, faculty and students turned out to judge the rounds of competition, and they made it a point to tell me how impressed they were with the talent, dedication and hard work on display. While we certainly wouldn’t mind luring some young people of that caliber to join our student body, we made a deliberate effort to avoid a hard sell. Instead, we used the event, and our opportunity to show hospitality, as an icebreaker, a way to display our heart and our motives, to show Christ’s love to travelers far from home. Among other things, I baked up enough cookies to give every competitor a goodie bag containing several different kinds.
One thing speech and debate people love to do is give unselfishly of their time and their insight to help newcomers make those first few steps of progress that are so crucial in learning what it’s all about. I’ve never forgotten how many experienced debaters and debate coaches from other schools were generous with their feedback and tips back when I was a beginner. Generosity that powerful kindles an urge to repay by giving back, and every year I get my deepest sense of satisfaction, during and after the tournament, when I think of the work as installments toward the enormous debt I owe my past benefactors. We give, and we inspire others to give, and as Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water'” (John 7:38, ESV).