Across from Texas State University’s iconic stallion statues sits a man, two folding chairs and a sign that reads “Let’s Talk About Anything”. Jaime Bouzard, campus pastor and director of Christ Chapel at Texas State, sets up shop Monday through Thursday to lend an attentive ear to whomever may need it.
Though Bouzard serves as a listener and a friend to the students of Texas State, his journey began with the Christian representation on campus, he said.
“I started coming out here first as a counter protest to some of the people who come on campus with rather, uh, a rather distorted version of the faith I hold dearly,” Bouzard said.
But as time went on, he began noticing the large number of students who just wanted someone to talk to. Bouzard took this as a sign that his presence could be valuable to many, so he decided to come to campus regularly, and his audience steadily grew, he said. Week by week, students came and referred their friends until lines of people waiting for the chance to talk to him formed.
Although Bouzard’s booth is set up to help the community, his relationship with the students is a mutually beneficial one.
“It’s really become probably the most rewarding part of what I do,” he said.
The profound impact that Bouzard feels from his endeavors lies mostly in the gift of sharing in students’ lives, he said. His most memorable conversation was one that encompassed the heavy topic of abortion. A young man approached Bouzard’s booth and explained that his girlfriend was pregnant; she wanted to get an abortion, but the young man hoped she wouldn’t.
A year later, he came back.
The young man thanked Bouzard for listening to him on that frightening day and shared that he and his girlfriend had a healthy baby.
Most students, like that young man, confide in Bouzard about relationship issues, economic struggles, family crises, career decisions and fear for the future.
However, some just want to feel closer to home.
Anna Duran, a senior student, looks to Bouzard as a dad figure in times when her own is far away and out of reach, she said.
“It’s always good to have someone to talk to, an adult I can talk to and know that there’s people here I can trust,” Duran said. “Even if I have a bad day, I always keep him in mind. I’m always excited to see him here.”
Duran visits Bouzard at least twice a week, she said. When she wrestles with a tough day, Bouzard offers her lighthearted conversation to take her mind off things.
It is students like Duran that reinforce Bouzard’s mission and purpose on the Quad at Texas State. Since 2007 when he began his journey, Bouzard has learned what Texas State students are like, and what they have to offer to the community and the world.
“I’ve learned that they are wildly unique, but at the same time, they have so much in common,” he said. “(TXST students) are pretty awesome.”
In conversing with so many students, Bouzard has been left with one profound and touching conclusion:
“They’re going to be such a gift to the world when they get out of here,” he said.