As the Bowdoin-Haitian Alliance gears up for a week of events to commemorate the earthquake of February 2010, I find myself trying to condense my list of campus obligations.

What is, after all, realistic? What's most important? I recently realized that the entirety of my interaction with Haiti has been indirect.

In 2007, I was a Spanish-obsessed high school student working in what had been a Haitian cane-cutter community in the Dominican Republic.

Anyone familiar with Dominican racial currents will understand the controversy of my interest about the flux of Haitians from the other side of the island, but my program directors were eager to tell the tragedy of Haiti.

Four years later, Haiti is still reaching me as second-hand news. It is the archetypal victim of structural violence featured in almost every ethnography I read.

It is the centerpiece of all appalling tales of colonialism, neo-liberalism and empty regret. It is the collective poster-child of poverty and a haven for public health studies.

But Haiti probably will never conjure a face, a name or a memory for me. I will never receive a call or a letter. I will probably never set foot in the nation. Haiti, quite simply, just is not that personal for me.

Hispano-America, on the other hand, has been a mutual love affair ever since I can remember. I pride and motivate myself by maintaining ties with the same communities and organizations that knew me even before Bowdoin.

I have struggled to preserve these connections despite my ever-evolving opinions and interests, but I can argue that my causes are still those in which I am an emotional stakeholder and a well-informed contributor. But how can I explain my involvement with Haiti?

I came to Bowdoin partly due to a flannel-clad boy sitting at a table in the Union and passing out pamphlets about the Darfur conflict, which was, at the time, the latest undergrad activist fad.

I wanted to be in a place where people cared about "things like that," but what role does Darfur play in my current academic or personal interests, now that I am at Bowdoin? None at all.

I carry the guilt of this and every abandoned battle, and I pacify it with a very Bowdoin mantra: "It's just not my fight, but I am glad someone's fighting it, and I admire you for taking it on."

I still find myself saying that at times, especially in light of a pending chemistry exam or research paper, concert or weekend tournament.

To merely survive the pace of Bowdoin life, we tend to compartmentalize our interests and commitments. We are forced to choose a cause to which we feel we can give enough attention that it may grow and be worth the time we allocate it.

We have to choose our battles wisely, and as a result, the causes we decide to retain become precariously interlaced with our budding identities, within the Bowdoin community and beyond.

What we tend to forget is that we do not need to be front-lining an effort to have a meaningful effect on its process or its results. It doesn't have to fit neatly into our major, complete the med-school application or be résumé-worthy to be of merit.

I know that at times our motives—and reservations—are not so self-centered. Sometimes I think we get far too caught up in debating the best and most effective way to change the world or tackle an issue, while looking for what is going to push us toward the next grand step. Where is this money going? How much will I really contribute on this ASB trip?

Consequently, we wind up not doing anything at all, except maybe dream or criticize, feel overwhelmed or, in protest, choose to be blissfully ignorant—while we can.

Bowdoin is, after all, a beautiful place to hide. I will agree that inaction can even stem from genuine passion.

After a long day's work in an under-staffed clinic in east Ecuador, a close friend and travel companion mused that maybe the best way to help is to simply not meddle.

The greatest way to effect change, according to that argument, may not be intervening "out there" but to be conscientious of everything within your immediate sphere, changing the patterns of structural violence from your roots and working up as far as you see fit.

Instead of debating how best to "save" Haiti, it seems much less overwhelming to dream of your energy efficient house, a well-funded public school and children who will grow up thinking critically about the world. But are the paths really so divergent?

Two parties, then, tend to criticize the Union bake-sale method to global change: those who think it is a project that does not concern them and those who think it is rather meaningless and that brownies and liberal arts school kids are not doing enough.

Maybe they will buy a cookie, but neither party will involve themselves further with that particular cause or club.

So a little more than a year after the earthquake, I find myself questioning—again—what would be the best use of my life, let alone my limited free time at Bowdoin.

Whether it is chasing after Paul Farmer or my own parents back in rural Vermont, what we need to remember is that we are all fighting the same fight, and I am starting to think it is all more relevant than it seems.

To be more specific, my current fight is not "Nicaragua" or "Haiti" or even the collective "Third World." It is to do what I can, when I can and especially when I trust that what I am doing is healing more than it is hurting, and it is curing more problems than it is causing. Even that much takes a leap of faith often times.

Although I trudge along my path toward the all-encompassing truth by way of both academia and work abroad, back here my fight is limited to the "little things" that are within my immediate reach and can still be explosive on the receiving end: a few kids in Port-au-Prince will go to school, completely for free, for at least one more semester.

This is something very much within our means and our power. We need to accept the fact that buying one raffle ticket tonight or going to O'Shea's this coming week is not going to move mountains or build hospitals, but in the end it will help more than it will hurt.

It is time to stop considering ourselves useless and biding our time 'til greatness.

We are facing problems of global proportion, but that does not mean that the only battles worth fighting take place on that distant and intangible level.

We can start right here and work our way up and out. It is all little pieces of the same fight.

So it is no longer about choosing battles. It is simply about choosing your means of contribution to the same cause.

Haiti will never be a personal matter for me, and it probably will not fit into my future, just as it has not fit into my past.

But it will not get crossed out of the calendar next week. And that, in some ways, makes it the most important thing I will do this spring.

Laura Till is a member of the Class of 2012.