September 11th, 2013
Love Thy Neighbor
One of the best ways to see and connect to the world around us is through service. From helping a neighbor carry their groceries upstairs, to volunteering at a homeless shelter in your free time, no matter how substantial the act it helps us to connect to the people around us. I’ve performed several acts of service throughout my years of education, and while it may not be the most significant of them all, my favorite has to be volunteering my time at the annual sixth grade retreat. The goal of this retreat is to bring together the entire sixth grade class as one with a weekend in the woods of learning, teambuilding, and bonding. It is this idea of bringing everyone together as neighbors, and to embrace the unknown not to fear it, that is the underlying theme of these poems and a Jesuit education.
In Mending Wall by Robert Frost, we get a first hand account of two neighbors different points of view. First off, the narrator see’s no reason to re-build the fence, as “here there are no cows” to wall out he says. Because of this he simply believes the fence is a barrier to keep him and his neighbor distant. In fact it seems as if they only interaction they have is the once a year they come together in order to build this separator between them. His neighbor however takes the viewpoint that “good fences make good neighbors”, meaning that by just keeping out of each others affairs there won’t be any conflict. This is the opposite idea of service of any type, where the main objective is to tear fences down and unite people of all types. In a sense by performing service we are trying to all become neighbors of some sort, and by “tearing down the fences” between us we can all become closer.
The next poem, Learning to Read by Frances E. W. Harper is the story of an elderly man who is just learning to read. Even though everyone around him says there is no point, he continues because he no longer wants to be uneducated. This poem shows us how much people value education, even something that seems simple to us like learning to read. It shows us that no matter how old, or even young, someone is there is no reason to discriminate against him or her for trying to further their knowledge. Age is simply a number. Some schools might not trust a 16-year-old high school student to be responsible for a group of young children, but I was so grateful to be given the opportunity. If we are not given the tools and opportunity to learn and grow, then we never will. That is another aspect of service, which I enjoy, taking what I have and trying to help others use it to benefit their own lives.
The final poem was actually the one I enjoyed and understood the most. It contains two characters that get into a car accident, and before even glancing at the damage they immediately start yelling profanities at one another. Upon looking however, there is no damage to be seen. These two people where so angry about what they assumed had happened that they didn’t take a second to relax and realize everything was just fine. Going into a new school as a sixth grader can be just as terrifying, and if these kids aren’t given a chance to just relax and get to know each other it going to be a much tougher time than is necessary. Sometimes it’s really just the unknown that scares us the most, but once we take a step back to examine it, it’s really not that scary at all.
It is the Jesuit tradition here at Loyola that really pushes the idea of service more than a typical University. After reading a speech by Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, it really helped to put into perspective the goals and ideals of a Jesuit University. One quote that stuck out to me was by Saint Ignatius who wanted “love to be expressed not only in words but also in deeds.” This quote is really a great one-sentence summary of what service is. Jesuits seek to educate “the whole person” both inside the classroom with book knowledge, but also outside with real world knowledge. I have already had and enjoyed these sorts of experiences, and look forward to those that are in my future.