Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Jesuits, Social Justice and Reflections on High School

            Last week, I had the opportunity to see where the Jesuits of Loyola live at the Jesuit Open House. I didn’t know much about their day-to-day lives, and had only met a few of them previously, so it was a chance to better acquaint myself with the men who live a mere stone’s throw away from me here on campus. I have to say, I am not crazy about the opulent mansion in which the Jesuits live. I understand that both that house and the house of Loyola’s president were built long ago and are a sort of “reward” for all the hard work they give to our school, but something about it just seems…wrong. With the exception of Father Jack, I also did not find many of the Jesuits to be particularly approachable, and while he was not there, this extends to Father Linane as well. However, one of my professors gave an interesting perspective on our President, saying, “God bless him; inapproachability is highly underrated. Let him have a little mystery to him.” I’m about as Catholic as they come, but something about the entire experience was inherently troublesome. Perhaps it was because I found that a few of them, particularly the older Jesuits, to be a bit condescending and inclined to disregard my questions. I don’t want to pull the gender card, but I felt as though the only explanation for their decidedly cool behaviour was because I am female.
            This assumption – whether true or false – brings me to Bharati Mukherjee’s short story, “A Father”. I related the clearly traditional Jesuits to the father depicted in the story, who still clearly holds the patriarchal values of Indian culture dearly, as is prevalent in the line “Men provide and women are provided for,”. Like many other immigrants to the United States, the father moves to the country in order to afford better opportunities for his family, but is shocked and displeased when his wife and daughter become “Americanized”. His daughter, demonstrates how fully she has attached herself to American ideology and technology by using a sperm donor to get pregnant, even though it would dishonor her family. The way in which the father reacted to the news, beating her stomach until the baby was killed, was nothing short of abominable. The story was so gripping, and showed that the “American Dream” comes at a dear price.
            The article “Serving Up Hope” was really inspiring in a typical sense, because who doesn’t love a story about second chances? Galen and Bridget Sampson are truly doing God’s work by offering employment to recovering drug addicts, which is a considerable gamble on their part. Too often, convicted felons will have a difficult time transitioning back into mainstream society after a prison stint, and that insecurity drives them right back into the welcoming arms of illegal drugs. However, Galen and Bridget offer these men and women a better future through employment and a sense of purpose. Their commitment to social justice is one of which the Jesuits here at Loyola would be proud. I wish more programs like theirs existed in the Baltimore area, which has been so devastated by crack cocaine.
            Both of this week’s poems brought me swiftly back to high school, especially Gary Gildner’s “First Practice”. I was a three-sport athlete in high school, and apart from school it was the best outlet for my competitive energy. I deeply understand what the coach meant when he said that in order to win one must treat your opponent like the one “you hate most in the world.” In basketball, softball or field hockey if I got into a spat with another girl on the opposing team, or perhaps just didn’t like the look of them, it made me all the more determined to win and really play with everything I had. I loved how the poem ended with the italicized Now, as it aptly signified the beginning of the season after the coach’s preamble.
            Had I read Richard Hague’s “Directions for Resisting the SAT” while I was in high school, I probably wouldn’t have taken it seriously. My peers in AP classes and I were incredibly close, but innately competitive with one another, and part of that was seeing who could get into the “best” college. The SAT was crucial and we agonized over it for months. At the time, I thought my scored defined me as a person, but that just shows how much more narrow my world was just a few years ago. While part of me still wishes my score were 100 points higher or so, I now realize how insignificant that test is in the scope of my life. I realize that when I die my obituary will not read "Julia Seibolt will be remembered by her friends as a devoted wife and someone who scored a ______ on her SATs." The average person has over six and a half decades of life ahead of them after they receive that fateful envelope from the College Board, and as Hague says, it should be our mission to "Desire to live whole". This is a truly striking sentiment, and like Henry David Thoreau, I too wish to "suck all the marrow out of life," rather than life sucking the marrow out of me.

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