Monday, March 28, 2011

Creating Your Own Success and Passing It On

In Tuesday’s readings, each piece discussed the values of traditions and faith and how they affect a person’s relationships with the people around them. In Bharati Mukherjee’s short story, “A Father”, the themes of traditions based on a person’s faith is discussed and evaluated through a gender-based lens. In Shapiro’s article, “Serving Up Hope”, she retells the story of a local Baltimore couple and their work towards using their faith to provide opportunities to those recovering from drug addictions in the community. In Richard Hague’s poem, “Directions for Resisting the SAT”, he takes a different approach, stating that it is necessary to not necessarily uphold traditions in order to have your own happiness and success. In Gary Gildner’s poem, “First Practice”, the speaker recalls a time where he is pushed to succeed forcefully and how his relationship with his coach forced him to act this way. During my service at Guilford, I realized that a student’s relationship with other people in their life greatly affect their response towards school and will dictate how hard they work to succeed.

In “A Father”, the first theme that plays a prominent role throughout the story is the role of traditions and faith. The father’s relationship with the idols and its shrines are almost preoccupying and his Buddhist faith dictates all aspects of his life. He is hindered by a simple sneeze on his way to work, which completely debilitates him. Instead of allowing himself to succeed, he finds simple things that are merely superstitions and magnifies them because of his faith into something a lot more. Although, he has times of confliction when he thinks about his pregnant daughter and how he will soon become a grandfather. While he disagrees with the decision his daughter made to get pregnant based on their faith, he realizes how great it will be to become a grandfather. Another theme that is prevalent in this short story is the relationships between men and women. The father never considers that his daughter could be giving birth to a baby girl. He also almost begrudges the easy success of his daughter because of how hard he has struggled in finding stability in his new life in Detroit. Like Koro, in “The Whale Rider”, the father places a lot of stock in tradition of the gender roles and believes that males are the prominent roles in society and should have the most success. The father is also hesitant to divulge from traditions, despite the changing times, or in the father’s case, a change in culture and location. It is ironic that when the daughter reveals that there essentially is “no father” to her baby, the father is the one who hits her with the rolling pin, and not the mother. The daughter places emphasis that this “father” is a good genetic candidate and shouldn’t pose a problem, but all views of becoming a grandfather are blurred by the hatred of this breaking of traditions and social expectations. I think that that main point portrayed in this short story is that where there are traditions and faith, which each of a role in the relationships you have with other people, sometimes these aspects in life need to be separated in order to have healthy relationships.

Shapiro’s article was enlightening because it was an article from The Baltimore Sun, which is a local newspaper here in Baltimore. Since moving to Baltimore in September and attending Loyola, I have learned the importance of “cura personalis” and other Jesuit ideals. Giving back to the community and allowing people to develop their own strength while developing your own is something that I have come to value a lot more since coming to Loyola. In this article, it allowed me to see a couple achieving this goal by reaching out to the community and doing what they love at the same time. The article discusses how a Baltimore couple maximized their business potential and their individual strengths by coming together to open Dogwood Deli, which allows for people to learn how to cook and serves as a stable transition period for people who are rehabilitating from drug use in the area. The program teaches these people work ethic and provides them with a support system that helps them stay sober. Through this couple’s faith, came a responsibility to give back to the community. By passing on their skills as chefs, they are allowing people to find their own strengths, which for some, was never possible when they were using. This couple epitomizes the idea that a person creates their own path for success and that no dream is too big to achieve. I think that it is completely true that each person gets out of a situation what they put in, and that one person’s actions has the power to change someone else’s life.

In Richard Hague’s poem, “Directions for Resisting the SAT”, the first thing I thought of prior to reading the poem was how the SAT was such an important part of the transition from high school to college. So many teachers put so much stock on a student’s success based on their SAT scores that it was somewhat discouraging when my SAT scores did not reflect the grades that I usually receive in school. However, after reading the poem, I found a similar message to the one that was portrayed in the Shapiro article. This poem allows readers to play with the idea that one single moment in a person’s lifetime does not determine the success you will achieve for the rest of your life. While a moment can be somewhat defining, it does not necessarily dictate how a person will react to that moment and how they will embrace change and strive for success. In the poem, there was no space until the final line, which I believe is the most powerful line since it relays the message of the poem to the readers. I think that this no spacing is the poet’s way of breaking the traditional rule of poetry by creating stanzas and dividing ideas. Instead, the poem is a single stanza, which represents unity and the power of a person, followed by a single space, which symbolizes an individual’s interpretation of unity and power and their own personal success. I think that this message is important to consider at all transition points in a person’s life because often times, people get hung up on the “process” of life and forget to actually live, learn and grow.

Gary Gildner takes an opposite approach, stating that some kind of competition is not only healthy, but it necessary to achieve success. He states that each person has a strength within them that needs to be harnessed, but it can only be harnessed after a fight or struggle. Like the poem “Success is counted sweetest”, Gildner agrees that a person must face turmoil or even lose along the way in order to have some sort of success. In this poem, the coach states that all girls must leave, which emphasizes the coach’s stereotypes that girls cannot do as much as boys in terms of athletics. He also plays a stereotypical role of someone resembling a drill sergeant or tough coach, stating that he has been through a war and divides the team to face each other. This stereotype emphasizes the divides among certain people and how success can sometimes divide people because where there is success, there is also failure. The spacing of the word “no one” creates a sense of hesitation in the team, which is parallel to the hesitation of students when faced with important decisions, such as where to attend college or what scholarship to apply for, or even for picking a major and minor in college. The title, “First Practice” shows that sometimes the initial experience of something can dictate how hard you work, which will then dictate the rest of your life. This idea goes back to the idea portrayed in the Shapiro article. Whereas some people get discouraged after a difficult practice and choose to quit, others will choose to power through it and will end up gaining more in the end from it. I think it is important for people to commit to things and “power through” so that they can learn from their experience, even if they don’t see any “success” coming from the experience, these people are essentially succeeding just because they finished something, even if they didn’t do the best job along the way.

Through my service, I have realized that a lot of the students that I tutor each week try really hard to succeed, whereas some of their friends do the bare minimum to get through middle school. While students are working hard in the classroom, there are at least 3 or 4 students in the hallway or in the classroom distracting their friends from studying with us. At first, it was hard to ignore these students because they were rather disruptive. Now, these students have stopped coming by, but so have some of the students that come to get tutored each week. Since we have been serving at Guilford, I have worked with a different student each time. Some students were more eager than others. Most of the time, it was difficult for me to get through to each of the students because most of them didn’t want to be there in the first place. For the past three weeks, only one girl, Tanya, has been there each week. For the past three weeks, we have been working on the same 7th grade Social Studies study guide, and by last week, Tanya had no problem reciting the 34 answers without any hesitation. I realized that because Tanya has been dedicated, she is eventually going to surpass the rest of her class and excel more than the others. Even though some students come each week, Mr. Smith convinces them or forces them to stay one way or another, which eventually will do nothing, because they are not willingly learning. When a student starts to willingly learn on their own, then they will learn more and eventually succeed more. 2 weeks ago, we were talking to Tanya about college life and what it was like being away from home. She seemed genuinely interested in going to college and wanted to learn a lot more. She was really intrigued when we told her about Relay for Life and wanted to see if there was anything like that in the area for her to get involved with in the future. Last week, she asked if Relay for Life had taken place, and I realized that she really was interested in what we were saying because she remembered something that didn’t even involve her! I was so surprised when she asked, and I was pleased to tell her that it was happening during the weekend and that I couldn’t wait to tell her about it next week. I realize that a person’s success is all dictated in a person’s outlook on life and how they react to the situations around them. If they become defeated, they will be defeated. But if they are persistent and dedicated, they will eventually succeed and be able to help their own peers succeed in the future.

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