Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I think the idea of creating men and women for others, as described in Kolvenbach’s speech, is something that is incredibly important in our lives today. I have to say that upon deciding to come to Loyola, the Jesuit factor was not really all that important to me, mainly because I did not know all that it entailed. Now, though, I really am impressed with how many students volunteer and how many different kinds of volunteering opportunities there are on campus. Loyola has programs from Project Mexico and Encounter El Salvador to tutoring African refugees in the city. Even though we do live in a little ‘Loyola bubble’, we are able to reach out and participate in all these different types of service. I began doing service my sophomore year when I volunteered at a program called EBLO (Education Based Latino Outreach), a tutoring center for Hispanic children. I’ll admit I was doing it for a class; however it was something that I really enjoyed because I love working with kids and I feel like it is something I am good at. Both junior year and this year I am working at an organization that teaches ESL to Spanish speaking immigrants within the city of Baltimore. I think what Kolvenbach says about this kind of service is really important; he says that “this sort of justice requires an action-oriented commitment to the poor” (27). He also comments on how Saint Ignatius thought it necessary for love to be shown in deeds as well as words, which is something that is almost necessary in our busy lives. I think that Loyola is special in that it really does try hard to nurture students into becoming people who not only care about others but try to show their care through service. Callie asked us a question in her presentation if we think we allow ourselves to “let the gritty reality of this would into our lives” and I honestly think that every little bit counts. I may not be doing a lot in the grand scheme of things, but even the act of leaving campus once a week to go downtown and spend some time with different kinds of people is in itself liberating.

Father Ignacio Ellacuria’s quote struck me when he said that a Christian university should “be a voice for those who do not possess the academic qualifications to promote and legitimate their rights” (3). This idea of being a voice made me think of the service I am doing now, because in some ways that is what I do. I translate a question from the teacher to the student; I literally am the voice for these students who cannot communicate with their teacher. The students who come to the Esperanza Center are adults who are working two or sometimes three jobs, and they take time out of their days to come and learn English. When I was tutoring last year, I would see many of the same people week to week and I was always so touched by how people remembered your name and your face. Even more than that, they were always so appreciative of the work we did together. It was nice to know that I was doing something that positively affected someone else.

For me, service makes me think about the things I have in my life that I may have previously taken for granted. When I walk into a store or go to the bank or go on a job interview, I never think about how to phrase my words because I know how to speak English. Some of the students I tutor, though, have only been in the United States for several months and do not even know how to spell their own name. In my class last week, the teacher asked a student “Hello, what is your name?” and the student simply responded “No” because she did not understand the question. I think this reflects Kolvenbach’s point when he says, ‘When the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change. Personal involvement with innocent suffering…is the catalyst…which gives rise to moral reflection” (34). Personally, this quote is very true because I feel like participating in experiences like this really causes you to think about your life and the lives of those around you. During the day, I complain about so many trivial things, but after going to the Esperanza Center and meeting with people who maybe were forced to leave their homes to come to the U.S. to look for jobs, or adults who have a sixth grade reading level, it really puts things into perspective. I think the idea of being ‘men and women for others’ is important, especially at Loyola, because it allows us to get out of our comfort zones and out of the familiar and venture into something that may be a little more foreign to us. Although Kolvenbach heavily emphasizes the need to be directly involved with the poor, I think that this Jesuit ideal can also be implemented in the absence of service. He says faith is essential to this idea but this idea can be demonstrated in our day to day lives. I think service is beneficial and thought provoking, but I also think it is important to live your everyday life with this philosophy.

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