Using the words of others, I share today Jennifer as others saw her at the age of 21:
fiance to Josh
church youth intern to teenagers
After Jennifer died on April 13, 2002, the Tennessee Tech newspaper, The Oracle, ran an editorial about her on April 19. The paper was not online back then, so I’ve retyped the story here. I think it paints a picture of her college life.
The friend I never earned
by Adam Daniels
Waking up at five in the morning isn’t normal. No one should ever have to do it. But on Thursday morning I drug myself out of bed (literally) for one of the best reasons I’ve ever had for getting up at all.
Thursday morning I, along with dozens more people, walked, ran and biked around campus in honor of Jennifer Souder, who died tragically last week in a hiking accident. People from so many different organizations came together to honor Jennifer by doing three things she enjoyed doing. All with one thing in common, Jennifer. Some ran. Some walked. Some biked. Some (me) lost the ability to walk after actually working leg muscles that early. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Some of you here on campus may not have known Jennifer. You missed out. In my 21 years of living I’ve never known such a humble, caring and considerate person. And when you hear that so much you start to wonder if it was true, it was. The fact that Jennifer touched so many people here on campus is a testament to that.
Jennifer had a smile that could brighten up the losing team’s locker room at the Super Bowl. I never saw her without that smile.
Jennifer was also one of the most gifted people I’ve known. She ran so effortlessly that I used to think I could run with her. Nope. I can’t imagine having such a gift. She had a full scholarship here to run track. I used to comment to her that I would do anything short of being a moving target for the rifle team for a college scholarship.
But the thing that made Jennifer wasn’t any of those things. Running track may have been what she enjoyed most, but wasn’t the most important by a long shot. You see, Jennifer quit the track team. Not because she hated the coach, wasn’t doing well, or wanted a bigger role as so many college athletes who quit teams do. Jennifer quit for about 30 reasons. All of which still have lockers, PE class and a huge hole in their heart after hearing of her leaving this world.
I remember when I heard that she was quitting the track team to work with the youth group at our church, Collegeside Church of Christ, I thought she was kinda crazy. I mean, giving up a college scholarship doing something she loved to work with a bunch of snot-nosed, self-absorbed middle and high school kids sounded pretty unstable to me. And it’s not like the pay was lucrative either, a hefty 40 dollars a week isn’t even enough to pay for two trips to the movies anymore. But Jennifer just smiled, as she always did, and worked with those kids every day of the week.
At her funeral Tuesday I saw the fruits of that labor. I’m not a Math major or Dustin Hoffman from Rain Man, but I guessed about 1500 people were in there, most of which teared up at one point or another. To see that many people so torn was one of the worst experiences in my life, but at the same time, I’ve never left a place more uplifted and in awe. The trail of people Jennifer touched along her way would line the Oregon Trail in 20 seconds flat.
I can’t tell you how hard this is. I have no problem spitting out words for this column on a weekly basis, but I’m at a loss. Jennifer touched so many people that trying to tell you how in some worthless editorial would only deman how much Jennifer meant to everyone she knew.
If only we could take an example from her, follow her lead and do something so drastic for someone else that other peole might call us crazy.
I see now that I was the crazy one. Those snot-nosed kids are the most caring bunch I know because of her influence. The time she spent with those kids may have been the happiest time in her life. Jennifer’s true talent wasn’t her running ability and her true gift from above wasn’t her legs that took her past everyone when she raced. Her true gift was her heart. Bigger than any desire to be noticed, she loved everyone she met. I know this sounds so repetitive, but I’m not making this up. She never wavered, and even when she should have been mean to me she remained loving.
I wasn’t worthy of the friendship Jennifer Souder gave me, and my world is a darker place without her. But the part of me that knows it was a crime for the world to keep such an angel so long for ourselves rejoices.
Jennifer loved God. Therefore, she loved everyone else. It’s that simple. In an age when religion is so misconstrued she got it right. And she’s passed her legacy on to us. One of the unconditional love, faith and sacrifice. I only hope we all could be a tenth of the person she was.
I hope you weren’t expecting my words to wow you. If you want to be wowed, talk to someone who knew Jennifer Souder.
Rest easy, Jennifer. You did more than your part.
We’ll take it from here.
A memory from Jill, one of those high school kids mentioned above
Jennifer lived every day as though it was her last. Yet she also had such an ambition for her future. She was going to write a book with Caroline about living healthy inside and out. She wanted it to help girls who were middle school, high school age to help them have self-esteem and to help them know what life really is! She always encouraged me to follow my dream and be myself. She was never fake. When I saw Jennifer, I saw Jennifer and God. She never looked worn out. She always shined for God.
A memory from the parents of another high school kid
Jennifer was a great example to our daughter. She loved life and lived each day with a smile and as if it were her last. She gave my daughter a card just last Wednesday that said always live each day for Christ. Take comfort in knowing she’s flying like a butterfly now! She is with the angels.
A memory from Caroline, the second intern for the girls
Jennifer was one of the most amazing people I have ever met. She was strength when the rest of us grew weary. She was my inspiration in so many ways. Her passion for God shone through everything she did – she truly lived for Christ every day of her life. I thank God for the blessing she was to me and all of our girls.
I Thank you for sharing her with me. We will always carry with us the things she taught us. She was such a joy, and I am so excited about the thought of rejoicing in Heaven with her one day. She was the best example of a Christian young lady I’ve ever met. I can’t imagine having worked with anyone else.
May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace! Psalm 29:11
Counting the joys found in the lives Jennifer touched.