Life is filled with an infinite number of choices that we as human beings have to make. It is apparent that our choices have a significant affect on others. The event that I attended this week further emphasized the moral responsibilities that we have and how important they are to people that are suffering in our world. Because of my Jesuit education and my family upbringing I feel dedicated at times to make choices to serve others. Langston Hughes’ short story “Thank you M’am”, the poem “Directions for Resisting the SAT” by Richard Hague, and the poem “First Practice” by Gary Gildner are all reflections of how the choices people make have a variety of significant reactions to different people in different situations.
Langston Hughes’ short story “Thank you M’am” begins with a young man attempting to steal a woman’s purse. The boy failed to steal the purse and was knocked down. The woman recognized as she saw her purse and the boy on the ground that the boy was in need from his physical appearance; he was dirty. After an interrogating conversation the woman recognized her moral responsibility to humanity. She took the boy home and gave him food, shelter, care, and even money. He responded with a simple thank you and the two never saw each other again. She did these things because of the sympathy and compassion she had for this boy. This story reflects how human kindness is a powerful force whether it is given to a friend or a stranger. It also reveals that by having respect and dignity for one’s self, a person is able to have a prevailing impact on another person who may be struggling with his or her own integrity. The woman is kind, wise and understanding and even though the reader isn’t the boy in the story, Hughes writes in a way that the reader becomes the boy and the women. The message of selflessness and helping others in this story is definitely one that is universal.
“Directions for Resisting the SAT” by Hague is a poem more modern than ones we have read in the past. It is also about something that many people have a negative feelings towards. The SAT is an exam that puts an enormous amount of pressure on high school students because of the emphasis on how this test affects the rest of a student’s life. The SAT is so insignificant to a person’s life and that is what the author is trying to point out. This poem is telling us that we should not do these so called things that will get us into college like joining clubs or stressing over standardized tests because success is not measured by these things. His most powerful lines that convey the overall purpose of the poem is “Listen to no one” (line 15) and “Make your marks on everything” (line 16). These lines are so powerful because it is how life and success should truly be defined. People should do things because they want to not because they are forced to. It is the genuine people in the world that make these “marks” on other people or places through service.
In Gary Gildner’s poem “First Practice” there is a different message being conveyed. Success is defined in this poem is winning, which is done through unity of the team. The author also emphasizes the word “now” (line 27) which reveals to us how some people in this world are in need of instant self-gratification while others can look beyond the self and turn to others who may need help not only now, but also in the future.
My event this week was not only interesting, but also inspiring. I attended a lecture by Madame Savelle a French professor at Loyola as she spoke about her time doing community service. Her project took place in Haiti and was called “Diversity from a Distance”. She emphasized how although we all can’t travel to Haiti to help people, does not mean that we are not able to help from a distance. She also spoke about the difficulties of volunteering. What impacted me the most is the reaction and responses of the children she worked with? They were all so appreciative. The reward of participating in this type of humanitarian work is not for your self, but for the people you are giving your time, care, and dedication too. She explained how the volunteers develop love and an emotional support for these children who literally have nothing and are living in the poorest country in the world. Her speech inspired me to want to participate in something, where my simple choice of giving up my time can have an everlasting effect on many other people’s lives.
Many people at times do not recognize the impact they have on others. People at times are also not grateful of what they do, where they attend school, or where they grew up. The statement “privilege is invisible to those who have it” came up in my sociology class today. And after attending the lecture on Monday, reading the Hughes story, and reading the two poems, this statement resonated with me. Service and volunteering has always been a part in my life because of my upbringing, but now as I get older I am continuously understanding and appreciating how my service and dedication of even just a few hours can affects someone in such a lasting way.