Men and Women for Others
In poems and short stories and poems by Langston Hughes, Richard Hague, and Gary Gildner as well as service done Loyola’s Madame Savell, a common theme of helping people is evident. In these three literary works and one event, one person reached out for the aid of others. The people in these stories and Madame Savell sought to better the lives of others by offering both advice and service. These reveal humanity’s giving nature and our propensity to help others. “Thank You Ma’am”, “Directions for Resisting the SAT”, “First Practice”, and Madame Savell’s service in Haiti all show different ways in which humans can give, help, and serve one another.
In Langston Hughes’ “Thank you Ma’am”, there is a strong sense of unwavering service. In the story, a young boy tries to steal an older woman’s purse but fails and is caught by the woman. Normally, one would think that the woman would punish the boy for this crime, but surprisingly she does the opposite. The woman takes the boy in and cleans him up because he was dirty. She then, over dinner, proceeded to have conversation with him about her work and she asked him why he wanted to steal her purse. The boy said that he needed $10 dollars to buy a pair of blue suede shoes. Then, even more, surprisingly, the woman gave him the $10. In the entire story the woman never acknowledges that she is doing something special for the boy and doesn’t even give him a chance to say thank you. Hughes shows the reader that random acts of kindness can make a huge difference in someone’s life like the boy’s. This story shows the generosity of humanity and how we can help even our own enemies.
Richard Hague’s poem “Directions for Resisting the SAT” is an example of how people can share their knowledge for the benefit of others. This poem touches upon how in modern society, people put so much importance on grades and a college degree. In the poem, Hague sort of says that one Saturday morning will not dictate the rest of someone’s life. The poem takes society’s academic values and throws them out the window. The last lines of the poem have a resounding impact. They go, “Desire to live whole, like an oyster or snail, and follow no directions. Listen to no one. Make your marks on everything”. Hague is giving young people a guide in life with these words. His advice tells them to not be afraid to go off the beaten path, and to not be too consumed with school work. Hague’s poem is an example of how people offer each other advice. It shows us how those with experience in life can help guide those who don’t.
Gary Gildner’s poem shows how even tough love can help people. In the poem a youth sports coach gives a pre-practice talk to his team. The talk is very aggressive and I imagine somewhat frightening for the boys. The tone of the poem doesn’t seem very negative so this talk isn’t intended to be mean. The coach says things like “are there any girls present?” and “I take that to mean you are hungry men who hate to lose as much as I do”. It seems as though he is trying to toughen them up and to turn them into men. Most people who have played sports have had a coach like this. The coach may seem mean and harsh but in reality everything he or she does is for the player’s benefit. This poem shows how people will coach each other up and give people tough love to help prepare them for the future.
Madame Savell’s lecture about her service in Haiti focused on the experiences that she had there. Most of the work she did was at an orphanage of around 100 children. She helped build and manage the construction of new structures for them to replace the ones they lost in the earthquake. Also, she helped raise funds for them (over $250,000) and collect clothes, supplies, and toys. She also discussed how sometimes it is better to help from a distance. She thinks this because she noticed how sometimes the volunteers unintentionally had negative impacts on the Haitians. An example of this is that sometimes the children go into withdrawals when the volunteers leave because they have a desire to be loved. Some of the next steps that she wants to take is to clear all the rocks off the soccer field and also to build housing for the volunteers. Madame Savell’s service shows that even outsiders can make a difference in someone else’s life and that even from afar, people can help.
Personally, I feel that in our modern society, people are too caught up with themselves. It seems like people’s plates are so full that they don’t have time for other people. I think that some of the most important and rewarding work that people can do in their lives is to work for the benefit of others. Thankfully, Loyola and the Jesuits put a huge emphasis on service and its importance. The Jesuits strive to create students who are men and women for others who will then in turn go out into the world and strive to make it a better place. If more people could act like the characters of these literary works and Madame Savell, then I think our world would be a better place.