Matt Price was larger than life, a staggering six feet and four inches of hard work, somewhat inappropriate jokes, and the God-given gift of connecting with almost anyone. He first met my dad when we moved to Austin in 2006, bonding over a shared alma mater that soon manifested into his constant, lively presence at everything from a Baylor basketball game to Thanksgiving dinner. For all intents and purposes, he was my uncle, an integral part of the Aldridge family.
So, when he suddenly died during a cabin fire in Alaska, three days before he was going to fly home, it ripped through our family like a bullet. Matt wasn’t married; he was only survived by his parents, leaving them deeply mourning the loss of their son. We all mourned. It seemed unreal that he was gone.
I got to know Matt’s parents at a volleyball club in downtown Austin for the Mooseknuckle Charity Spike, a volleyball tournament hosted in Matt’s honor. I immediately was drawn to the Price’s incredible strength and joy, the same joy that Matt radiated. Later in the evening, Mr. Price gently asked me if I could go to his car with him because he had something to give me.
Helping him open up the trunk, I surveyed its contents, my eyes settling on the lone object that occupied it, an old, weathered bell. He placed the hefty object in my palms, the clapper gently tapping the brass sides. There was a Sailor Bear emblazoned on the front, and although the paint was faded and chipped, I could still imagine the bell in its prime.
This Baylor bell first made its appearance during Mr. Price’s freshman year at Baylor in 1948, its echoing and booming ring a fixture at football games during his four years at the school. The history and emotion behind this gift left me in awe. He had no grandchildren to give this bell too, no one to carry on this tradition. The only reason we knew each other was because my father and his son were both proud Baylor Bears, united against the daily onslaught of burnt orange. Baylor brought me the pleasure of knowing this incredibly kind, generous, and Godly man. For Mr. Price, Baylor brought him the grandchild he never had in me.
Christian community is something I haven’t always had. Growing up I felt isolated from my church, the girl that was always at youth group but never invited to eat dinner afterwards. I never realized what I was missing out on until I started going to Austin Ridge Bible Church my sophomore year. Suddenly, a whole world of people opened up, people who loved me simply because they loved the Lord, not because I could do anything for them. That was the first time I truly understood what God means when He says He designed us to live in community. From the moment I stepped on Baylor’s campus, I felt that same feeling of Christ-driven love that I feel at Austin Ridge. A strong, Christian community is something I value so much, and that value is shared by Baylor.
Mr. Price’s bell had history, and was a testament to the community that Baylor has provided for generations, a community that binds together the Price’s, my grandparents, my parents, and so many others. I’ve witnessed the powerful generosity that binds together Baylor alumni, the eagerness to assist their fellow graduates. The Baylor community is always someplace where I’ve felt welcome and at home, and that lifelong family is something I crave.
I’ve struggled at times in my life with feeling accepted and loved, and because of those experiences I now actively seek out people who don’t have a Christian community, attempting to give them a place to belong. At Baylor, I would bring that same zeal for inclusion that the students there already exude, fitting right in to the familial community. I want to love others as Christ loved me, to give others the community that Austin Ridge offered me, to be at a school that affords me the opportunity to pursue both of those things. I want the exceptional education that Baylor provides of course, but a great education is not unique to Baylor. However, no other school allows me to a part of a large Christian community, to pass on my legacy to a family, whether or not we’re related by blood, just like Mr. Price passed on his bell to me.