Dr. Juniper Ellis
13, September 2007
As a Loyola student I looked around and saw people taking part in service all around me. I considered myself too busy to make service a part of my life because my life was already so hectic. By chance one morning, I walked by a table in the student center and found out about the St. Mary’s partnership with Loyola. I was told I could go once a week if I needed. I thought about it and figured if I can’t give one day a week to service then what good am I? What truly fueled my new found desire to serve was when I thought about God. I am so blessed and since my religion is service oriented, why not help another? The next thing I knew I was working with a fourth grader once a week on homework.
What I found most strange about the experience was how serious I was about it. Once, the fourth grader told me he was having trouble with his multiplication tables. I could not fathom that his teacher had not adequately covered multiplication in the third grade. Out of no where I found myself actually caring. I got on this little fourth grader about not knowing these facts and the importance of studying them like he was a brother or cousin. We practiced them and the next week he knew his facts. I am not sure if it was my duty to God, or the condition of the school which sent a signal through my brain and through my heart. Suddenly, I knew just how important this service was. My weekly journey down the street was no longer about doing something because I should but more about helping this fourth grader and others like him because I wanted to, and more importantly because I felt called to do so.
At this time in my life I previously viewed the city as a mixed up universe. There was a hard, dirty side to the city which was like Jupiter to me, and soft beautiful side which was like the Sun. I was stuck on Earth unable to truly touch either, but feeling the soft side daily on my face. The soft side was a part of my day, I woke up to it and it guided me, but still I felt removed from it. The soft side was Loyola, but in its bubble. Surrounding was Jupiter which seemed so detached, and foreign. I was stuck in the Loyola bubble, disconnected from the city but still unable to feel truly connected to Loyola itself. Volunteering for me was like Jupiter and the sun joining and the coldness that existed in the planet so far away beginning to melt. I felt more connected with the city as well as Loyola. I had previously assumed that I would never actually go to Jupiter because the sun was comforting and assessable. I could have continued to live my life in ignorance of the city but I would have never met that fourth grader who made me care about him, made me care about Baltimore.
This experience is reflective of the Jesuit ideal, care of the whole person. I was getting a great education and developing as a leader but one key component of Jesuit identity was missing; It was service. I never thought service was so important until I truly experienced it. I was inspired to go on SBO last year and continue my service this year with St. Mary’s and additionally at Hispanic Apostolate helping adults learn English. One experience empowered me to do so much more. Service isn’t about you helping someone else but about both parties helping each other. This model of service is reflective of Whale Rider. Koro says in his empowering speech on page 117 that “It is both. It is both”. Referring to both the ancient tradition and the modern manifestation of the Maori people’s beliefs, both new and old are equally important to fulfill the destiny of the people. As with the development of an individual, the spiritual development is equally as important as the mental development. In both the novel and in my experience, you can’t have one without the other. Similar to the Whale Rider narrative, destiny cannot be interrupted no matter how hard we try. Koro could not keep Kahu from fulfilling her destiny as homework, meetings and a social life cannot keep me from doing what I should be doing. Haumi e, hui e, taiki e. Let it be done.