October 30th, 2013
Show Me The Way
Everyone needs someone they look up to, someone to guide and assist them through not only the good times, but also the bad. This need is even more prevalent in the early stages of childhood, where being taught right from wrong can shape the kind of person we grow up to be. In the literary works “Directions for Resisting the SAT” by Richard Hague, “First Practice” by Gary Gildner, and “Thank You, M’am” by Langston Hughes, the authors all give advice and guidance to those who need it. Hague’s poem is a satirical attempt to downplay what most high school students consider the test that will determine their future. Additionally “First Practice” tells the story of a new, hardcore athletic coach taking over his new team. Finally, in his short story Langston Hughes shows us that everyone deserves simple acts of kindness, and a chance to turn their lives around. These themes of guidance and leadership are really the essence of what it means to perform community service.
At first read “Directions for Resisting the SAT” may seem as if it is telling kids to simply not take, or just not study for the SAT. This however would not be great advice to follow, and isn’t what the message of the poem is. Instead, Hague is making sure that people realize, while the SAT is important, it is not the most important thing in someone’s life. So much pressure is put on students to do well this test it can drive one crazy, when instead they should be focused on the rest of their life. Hague gives us a couple pieces of advice in this poem, first he tells us to “Desire to live whole.” By this he is telling us to not just focus on one thing, but to instead be an overall good person and live an all around fulfilling life. This is very similar to the Jesuit ideal of teaching all aspects of education, which we learn about all the time here at Loyola. Secondly, we are told to “Make your marks on everything”, which has some connection to the SAT through use of the word marks, but goes much deeper. If some people worked as hard in life as they do on focusing on their SAT scores, they could be much more successful. It is by working our best at everything we do that we are able to leave our mark on it.
“First Practice” gives us a different sort of advice, this time from the point of view of a sports coach. It often happens that different people in our lives help to shape us in different ways; teachers help us academically while coaches tend to help us in leadership and teamwork. While we can only assume these kids are on some sort of school sports team, the coach immediately refers to them as “men” not children or boys. “Men who hate to lose as much as I do,” he tells them, using his military background to inspire his team. Coaches often have a way of keeping order in young men; through the strict discipline they implement everyday in practice. It is discipline like this that guides kids to make the right choice in every aspect of life. This is why it is important to have several people and sources of guidance, because there are so many aspects to life that one person simply cant teach them all.
Finally, Langston Hughes tells the story of a remarkable woman in “Thank You, M’am”. Most people who catch a young man stealing their belongings would report them to the police; Mrs. Luella however does just about the exact opposite. She can clearly see that this young man is troubled, as he has no one at home to feed him or tell him to wash up. Without any sort of authority figure, someone to look up to, all this young man can think of to do is steal what he needs. Instead of getting him in trouble, Luella does something far more proactive by taking him home, letting him wash up, feeding him, and actually giving him the money he tried to steal. She shows him compassion, and becomes the figure in his life he never had but so desperately needed. Right and wrong is not always obvious to everyone, and the best way to teach people the difference is to show them. While discipline has its place, people learn better from those whom they feel like and respect them. By acting in a way no one expected, it really helps to show the moral that anyone can do something to help a person in need.
All this relates perfectly to what it means to do community service, especially for children. While I hope most of the kids have someone in their lives they look to for advice, some may not. Either way though I try to be that someone who can offer these kids guidance, as you can never have enough people to seek advice from. Every day I hope each kid learns a simple lesson from the work we do with them, such as following directions, learning to play with others, and basic values of teamwork. It is my job to reinforce these simple ideas with them, just as Mrs. Luella did, that they will hopefully remember for years to come. Friday was obstacle course day, in which we built an amazing course any young child would love to run and jump through. Guidance was very important in this exercise, as the kids had never done this activity before and needed to learn each step. The best part was that their teacher got to stay and help, which is not normal, and along with Mr. Schaffer the three of us all had our own advice and inputs we were able to teach. While it may not seem like much, my gym teachers are some of the teachers I remember the most. Enjoyment is key in learning, and since gym is one of the most enjoyable classes for young kids I believe you can connect and teach in an entirely different way. It’s these small acts of kindness and guidance, like telling a young man to wash his face, that can impact people the most.