Monday, September 19, 2016

Service Analysis 1

When it comes to sticking with tradition versus expanding one's domain, it is often hard to find a balance between the two. The conservative/progressive scale will always try to tip in one side's favor. This balancing act is not only prevalent in politics. Conflict of interest is a common thread that spans across multiple historical time periods in many different places. It can be found in many places, including but not limited to: within the confines of institutions (the church, mainly), on the streets of a big city, in an apple orchard/pine forest, or in the post-civil war South.

People like their privacy. As the old saying goes, "Good fences make good neighbors" after all. Who would want someone sticking their nose in their own business? In Robert Frost's "Mending Wall," the speaker reflects on his annual wall-fixing that takes place in the Spring time. The speaker questions why the wall is even necessary, since his apple trees and his pine trees make a natural barrier. They exchange in a friendly banter, and is neighbor's response is always, "Good fences make good neighbors (lines 27,45)." As we learn, his father taught him this phrase, and he upholds it. Traditionally, walls were put up to keep the farm animals in. The speaker complains about the heavy work of fixing the wall every spring. Although he would like to take down the wall, he accepts his neighbor's value for it, as a symbolic representation of what he has been taught. 

A big-city setting is quite different from this small rural village. Neighbor's rarely talk to each other, and more often then not will curse one another out if there is a problem. Jill McDonough's poem, "Accident, Mass. Ave." deals with the convention of city behavior. When the woman in the "beat-up Buick (4)" backs into the speaker's car, she immediately throws a fit of rage. People in the city are often high-strung and under a lot of stress. Out of habit, she starts yelling and swearing. She explains each "step" of the process, but stops when she is surprised to see no damage. The two woman are baffled that they didn't even realize at first to check the cars. They laugh it off in the end, and show each other compassion. 

If we go back in time, we can see this tension especially in the South, after the civil war. Frances E.W. Harper was an abolitionist, and her poem "Learning to Read" highlights the struggle of African-Americans to acquire an education. She believes that education was the key to freedom. This is why the slave owners would deny this to them. The "Rebs" opposed education of the freed slaves, but the "Yankees" of the North still sent teachers down south. Sadly, education systems today for minorities remain a problem, especially in the inner-cities where poverty prevails. 

Part of the Jesuit mission is to provide education for the marginalized in society. The Jesuits met at the General Council after Vatican II took place in the 1970s. They came up with a new slogan, which caused controversy over word choice and even left ambiguity. Their slogan "The service of faith and the promotion of justice" was criticized for being too liberal, Marxist even, for the second half of the statement. It also created confusion; "'The serve of faith and the promotion of justice' has all the characteristics of a world conquering slogan using a minimum of words to inspire a maximum of dynamic vision, but at the risk of ambiguity (Kolenbach)." Although changing the words were discussed, the statement remained as is because it is concise and not too pompous. The first dimension of their mission is "the service of faith," which replaced the word "propagation." This took away the propaganda aspect. Part of the reason I like Jesuit ideals is that they are inclusive of everyone and it is not their goal to convert anyone. Regardless of ethnic background or religion, the Jesuits believe in showing compassion. Part of the reason I chose the service-learning option is mainly to go along with the Jesuit values and to be a helping hand to those in society that need it. My goal is to be a volunteer in the Refugee Youth Project and to offer tutoring and mentoring to the students who come from diverse backgrounds. I take a general interest in people from diverse backgrounds, and have many friends who immigrated to America from different countries. In particular, I have a lot of experience helping my friend who is from Pakistan with his writing skills. I mostly help him edit his college papers, and am always happy to give suggestions. I was also a tutor in high school and found it very rewarding service. Sometimes, the best way to learn is by doing. The service-learning option will give me the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom, and to gain a deeper understanding of what it actually means to "promote justice." In the past, I have been required to do service and record the number of hours at the end of each semester. Although I enjoyed doing the service, all the school was concerned about was the number. I believe in quality of quantity however. Although I am only required about an hour and a half per week, I believe this will really be a good quality of service. I really value the integration of service with education. Writing these blog posts will also offer an opportunity for reflection, and to take our experiences and place them into a bigger context. I believe this is one very important aspect in "educating the whole-person." 

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