I walk in on a rainy Wednesday night to the warm basement of Rider to see hurried seniors cooking and serving one-dollar waffles to pleased customers. The sound of Mario Kart and laughter encircles me. The creaky stairs, old board games, and face-to-face conversation makes my heart sing and feel at home. Sinking my teeth into a warm waffle bonds me with both strangers and friends in such a welcoming way. Something is different about this place, I think.
Last year an AC began a tradition in the Rider house that still continues. Residents host one-dollar waffle nights with specialty waffles and coffee every Wednesday night. These delicious waffles make for a great break from midweek studying or providing an escape from homework, as well as a feast of breakfast food.
Michael Mitts ‘21 shares: “it is a fun space to exist in.” Having all of the board games laid out, Nintendo Switch turned on, and an array of seating creates a hospitable environment to “cultivate relationships” as Mitts put it. He recounts that when it started last fall the going was slow. The “Stranger Waffles” night in October of 2018 was the waffle night debut. With weirdly themed waffles referencing the Netflix original series “Stranger Things.” The seniors of Rider had begun a tradition. This, along with the closing of Gillies’ Late Night on weekends had people flocking to Rider on Wednesdays during the spring semester of 2019.
Mitts spearheads this operation with several of his senior buddies in order to serve the younger classes of Gordon College. To the common person, it may just look like waffles, but there is a deeper meaning than just waffles. Mitts claims there is a greater purpose. Rider Waffles is a part of a larger project called “Mentored Life.”
The Mentored Life operation aims to target tensions in life by providing opportunities for cohesion and unity between Gordon students; Waffle Wednesdays is part of the initiative. The purpose of these events is to “relieve stress,” “engage stillness,” and “self-[reflect]” according to Mitts. “Let’s talk to one another,” he says. Mitts has nothing but praise for all of those volunteering their time with him.
Each Wednesday, before opening up shop at 9:00 pm, the upperclassmen praise the name of the Lord and ask for His blessings in their endeavors of service and conversation. Upon walking into Rider, it is evident that they are intent on breaking barriers by breaking bread, or in this case, waffles.
What I remember from that night was no waffle at all, but the smile that Michael Mitts gave me as he handed me my coffee and two waffles. Ironically, going through high school, seniority thrived and was a common theme: special treatment for the elders. Waffle Wednesdays shatters this preconceived notion of seniority. The seniors care about “living life together” as Mitts put it. Rider Waffle Wednesdays is about loving all students at Gordon College. Praise God for waffles and Gordon seniors.