Doing some good the common way
"Come on, almost at the top ."
No, I'm not coaching myself up the mountain of purgatory or even Katahdin, only up the four flights of stairs leading to my dorm room. Usually living on the fourth floor isn't that big of a deal.
Yes, in all honesty, I find myself opting for the elevator instead of the stairs in the library, or choosing the ramp in Smith Union, and perhaps I groan more often when I realize that I left the day's homework on my bed requiring a return trip; but typically the stairs don't bother me too much.
Tonight, however, I just got back from tutoring at the Kennedy Center in Portland, and with each step the burden of the paper needing to be written and the reading waiting to be read weighs a little more heavily on my shoulders.
When combined with my headache from reading Beowulf with an ESL student, from racking my brain for any details from my seventh grade study of Lord of the Flies for a boy's English paper, from revisiting ionic bonding that I thought I had finally freed myself from my final day of chemistry class junior year, it's no wonder I'm a little out of breath.
So, you may be wondering at this point, why am I in this situation? Why do I volunteer? Step back sometimes and ask yourself why you're doing what you are-it's not so you can put it on a college application like in high school, and it's not something that your parents signed you up for. In college what I do and how I spend my time are self-selected, consequently I'm responsible for my exhaustion.
Yet, despite the fatigue, working with kids is a reprieve from the hectic and in some ways unreal school life at Bowdoin. On campus I am often guilty of getting stressed over work still to be done or a meeting still to attend.
Therefore helping a girl who is eighteen, married to a thirty-six year old, mother of one, and studying for a nursing degree, reminds me of how fortunate I am that my stress comes from something as detached from life as a paper on The Oresteian Trilogy.
On a campus where the largest problem can be not finding time to eat after a class but before the Orient meeting, it's important sometimes to step back from the "Bowdoin bubble" and remember people who don't have anything to eat at all.
I volunteer because I believe that if you are lucky enough to have had a family that read you stories growing up and that encouraged you to shoot for the moon and study hard in order to go to a top school, it's important to try to pass on and to share some of these gifts and these opportunities.
Although I come back to my dorm tired and settle in for a long night of studying, I still have my paper to write and my play to read, I'm aware of the distinction between the urgent versus the important, and realize that I'm fortunate enough to have most of what's important covered and that I'll finish the urgent-my school work-by morning.
Ultimately, the other vital part of Common Good Day lies in its title-common. Good should be insignificant because we are doing it significantly; it should be a routine part of our lives.
By all means build for Habitat or tutor or paint this upcoming Saturday, but also remember that the 28th is only one of many opportunities we have for doing "good"-each day we have the power to hurt, to encourage, to comfort, or to console family, friends, classmates, acquaintances, and strangers.
What we do with that power, whether or not we help pick up the food a girl drops in Thorne, or stand up for a guy our friend just belittled, or listen to our brother who just got dumped for the first time, or help a girl from Senegal study for the SATs to create a better life, is indicative of how we live our own lives.
This Saturday is not just an annual event, but rather one more opportunity for us to use our personal power in ways that reach beyond our own well being, one more chance we have to "do good".