Here’s something most of the students at Creighton don’t know: each other.
Although Creighton is typically considered a “small” campus where everyone knows everyone, how many classmates do you actually know? I mean really know.
You may see someone in a class, friend them on Facebook and then later when someone mentions them in a conversation say, “Yeah, I know them.”
That’s not knowing someone. That’s knowing what they consider a positive projection of themselves for the rest of society. That’s an image that may portray just a fraction of whom he or she is.
Everyone has a story to tell, including every single person you see walking down the Mall, every professor you complain about and every janitor that cleans up after you. And all it takes to hear their story are open ears and time.
I was sitting in Harper last week looking over study abroad materials when Stephen Waters struck up a conversation with me. You’ve probably seen him around. He’s the University College student with the hat and can often be found with the mock trial team.
Our conversation was completely random and very brief, but it was enough to pique my interest and make me want to learn more about him.
Lucky for me my involvement on “The Creightonian” and being a journalism major makes it easy to make an excuse talk to a random person. I arranged what I called an “interview,” although it was really more of a “tell me your story, please.”
It didn’t take him long to realize I wasn’t interviewing him for just any story, but was instead just looking to listen to what he had to say.
What I found was even more interesting than I anticipated.
Waters came to meet me directly after speaking at a Jesuit middle school. He was completely decked out in Knicks gear, which makes sense, considering he’s from New York.
Almost immediately after sitting down, he pulled out a CD and handed it to me. It turns out Waters was an acclaimed gospel rap artist. Talk about a story.
Waters grew up in New York City and fell victim to the drugs and violence that surrounded him, which left him “ill-equipped to deal with life.” He was deeply affected by 9/11, when he witnessed the fall of the twin towers firsthand and volunteered for two days to help clean up the destruction.
Following the inner conflict that Waters experienced during 9/11, he escaped to Minnesota where he began his relationship with God. From that point on, he said he had a “gift to write lyrics.”
He had always had an appreciation for hip-hop, seeing it as America’s last art form, but had never performed himself. After letting God into his life Waters saw it from a new perspective.
“It made me want to express my new relationship with God,” Waters said. “I would rather hear about that than about how much crack you sold or how many baby mommas you got.”
While “in the main circuit for gospel hip-hop,” Waters described gospel rapping as a hobby. During this period, he continued his work as a carpenter while he was doing shows, or ministry as he prefers to call it, all over the country.
While Waters is hesitant to call his past accomplishments a big deal, he is now on his way to some very, very big things.
He is currently pursuing a pre-Law degree and hopes to land a career in international criminal law, which is not far-fetched by any means considering his plans over the next six months.
Waters landed a full scholarship at a university in Tanzania for the next six months during which he will be doing research under the former chief prosecutor at the Rwandan tribunal.
The point of this story isn’t to ramble on about a man’s life. The point of this story is to encourage you to get to know the people around you.
College is full of interesting people and it would be a shame to miss out on the opportunity to get to know them. If we could just slow down and take a minute to listen, people do want to share what they’re about.
Waters came into this “interview” with a distinct idea of what he was going to share with me, but slowly and surely I cracked him open and even made him reflect on things he hadn’t thought about in a while. The conversation made him emotional, making it even more apparent that conversations like this are too rare.
“For me, the success of my future is contingent on how well I’m able to accept my past and share my past,” Waters said. “I can use it for something for people to hold on to and use as their hope.”
He was grateful for a chance to tell his story, no matter how much he originally doubted it.
I challenge you to ask somebody that seems interesting to get together and just talk. While it may push you out of your comfort zone, you’ll probably make a cool friend, and you’ll learn something about yourself in the process.
In my case, it was well worth it.