Giving What is Precious

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It flows through our veins. It is both the symbolic and literal essence of life within us. Blood, it has many connotations, and its importance is as much a part of us as the heart that beats it and the words that give it its poigance in our lives. And it is this importance that has ironically led to its spillage. Wars both small and large have resulted in its waste. From the streets of Chicago to the battlefields of distant lands, blood is a tangible resource and its value forgotten and yet remembered.

 

Here in the United States, a shocking statistic is that most blood centers barely have enough blood for a few days at a time, if that. Most of the time they are hemoragging blood, pardon the pun. That’s where these blood drives come in. Every year, we have several blood drives at Saint Xavier. And every time, it is a packed house. This semester, people had to wait for hours since the lines were backed up, and the organization that was doing the blood drive was overburdened. Now you can say this was an unfortunate incident with an unorganized company. But I say it was the real spirit of the SXU community.

 

This school is built on the spirit of giving, of sharing. The Sisters of Mercy are renown for its commitment to service. It is one of the very pillars in which this school has been founded on. And every aspect of life here has something to do with it. From the service club that sends volunteers for the bread truck or the drives that collect clothing or school supplies for those less fortunate, there is always something going on that take the chance to help someone. That was exemplified this week with the blood drive. Dozens of students took time out of their days and in many cases, including mine, missed class for a chance to contribue if only a little to help. Because that’s what this community is about, that is why I have remained here and am confident in SXU’s core values.

 

When I was a child, my father told me a story, actually more like a series of great epics of his life in a poor village to a great war in his homeland to his escape to America. And the only part he always remembered telling me was the time he donated blood. It was prior to his visa being approved to come here after the Vietnam War. He said that, “if this land takes me in, I give them what is most precious to me for it has given what is most precious to it.” It is that commitment to service that was exemplified by my father, by this school and by this community which I find so inspiring. We hear so much sadness in the world. And as a result, some people find it difficult to find a reason to try and make a difference. How can someone be the change they want to see if they don’t work at it. A mountain is not built from the top most rock down. It takes the small stones that form its base. And it is the practice of giving that allows mountains of change to occur.

They Were In Service

Photo by Thomas E. Franklin

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. It is a day in which the families of the slain mourn their beloved dead, and we that do live take pause for remembrance. In a world that every day appears to grow increasingly militant and apathetic, it is the moments of sentimentality and earnest truth that we flock to. And institutions such as Saint Xavier take to heart a pledge to fulfill those truths.

Here at Saint Xavier, mercy and service are words that are as common as hello and goodbye. Founded by the Sisters of Mercy, this school has had a long and decorated history in the belief and practice of mercy and service in charity and goodwill to the misfortunate. But what do those words mean in the larger context of the world? What kind of potency do they have in the hearts and minds of people? Words are one thing but do they have substance to suffice the enormous baggage that those words bear, especially on days such as today? We only have to look at the heroism and self-sacrifice of the emergency workers that worked and perished 15 years ago.

Four hundred and eleven. That is the number of emergency workers that died in the largest terrorist attack on US soil. That’s 411 families which lost a beloved. And that does not even begin to account for the number of affected that knew and loved those who passed. Service, a word that has many meanings, according to its context, but one in particular stands above the rest, “contributing to the welfare of others.” When police kept the panic crowds from turning into horrendous trampling rivers, they were performing service to their city and their fellow citizens as expected of any officer of the law. Despite the horrible things we heard regarding the actions of the police that perhaps overreach their authority, we must remember their purpose and role in our communities, selfless service. After all, sixty police officers lost their lives doing the job they swore to do, protecting the people.

When the brave firefighters of the FDNY rushed forth into the burning and chaotic inferno of the Twin Towers, a distinction became clear. When people say those firefighters weren’t thinking of themselves as they rushed into the inferno, they are grossly wrong. Firefighters are human as you and I. They feared for their lives as any person. But what is so inspiring and distinguishes those wearing the black and yellow fire jackets and the citizens they were sworn to protect was the choice. They chose to run back. They chose to cast aside their own self-preservation in the sworn duty of service. Those that perished and those that linger, stricken by illness for their heroic deeds that day are reminders to us all of the importance of service. They should be remembered not as superhuman or the brave exceptional but instead as the valiant standard of which we all should strive as citizens of not just this country but of the world to be.

“Not everyone can be a hero, but we can all take that step toward the life of service.” -Chris Thach 

Bread, A Service Introspection

At Saint Xavier, there is a required general education course that all undergraduates must take in order to graduate, community-based learning. Some high schools may also have this as part of their requirements. CBL, as it is more colloquially called, is an aspect of a class that involves the participation and appreciation of service in the lesson plan for the course. Service, it is, in my opinion, the core value of SXU. We hear it all the time — service, community service, volunteer service. All of this wordplay, but what does it actually mean? This week, I participated in an SXU service opportunity that occurs every Monday and Thursday afternoons, Bread Truck. In it, we went to several locations in the neighborhood, including an area known as Back of the Yards that has a predominantly Latino, many newly arrived immigrants, and black population with much of the populace at or below the poverty line. For those students that may not have experienced the level of poverty that those living in the area endure, it may be a shock, an eye-opener of one salient facet of Chicago. But for those of us, including myself,that indeed experienced the level of poverty they currently experienced, it was a reminder of painful memories and an ever constant thought in the back of our heads, the feeling of true hunger. It is a human right, I believe, that all people should be fed, never to go hungry. Millions around the world and here at home suffer that terrible pain. It is services like the Port Ministries Bread Truck that bring light to this issue and attempt to elevate it. That is what I wish to discuss in this week’s introspection, service.

We, as citizens of this nation have the opportunity and duty to our fellow citizens, the downdraught and destitute. I often hear the word privilege used in a manner, especially today, that is jarring and divisive. I, myself, do not like the word. Instead, I find opportunity a better fit. It allows us, with our financial and social standing, to achieve things to a degree that those that cannot are able to. When you think hard and long on this issue, a thought comes to mind. Would I want someone to do the same? I’m pretty sure we’d all want someone to help us get back on our feet. All of us would want not to go hungry. When you look into the eyes of these people, you see a part of yourself in them. When you drive through Chicago and see these people asking for money from car to car or out front of the Art Institute, it’s easy to ignore them and hope they don’t ask you. But once you hand them a paper bag with food, when you see them beam as they humbly accept the meal, you can no longer ignore them and it is hard. But this is life. WE all have a duty to our fellow man. This is what Saint Xavier University desires in its students, and it is something we all should strive for, service.