Family's inspiring tradition of service
For a more just and humane world
I got a message in the mail today. Not that it wasn't to be expected. It said, "Kevin, (here's) some information on the column you are writing for November 18th," and there was a page attached listing the purposes and goals of what I'm going to write about.
So here I am, calling us all to service and action for a more just and humane world, inviting the Notre Dame community to share reflections that challenge Observer readership to engage in ongoing conversation and action pointed at social concerns, critically examining structures and institutions that maintain or create unjust systems, and encouraging everyone to respond to my reflections.
I'm not going to accomplish this by writing about inspirational three-legged squirrels, awe-inspiring Indian summers, or Walter Payton's divine intervention in a certain Green Bay Packer defeat. I'm going to accomplish some of these goals by telling everyone a short story of mine.
Being the youngest of seven children and the fifth member of my family to attend Notre Dame, I've learned a bit from example. This summer in Wayne's World, Illinois (Aurora) I had the opportunity to be a volunteer for nine weeks at Hesed House, a multi-dimensional facility for the poor. I worked in a food pantry, an interfaith soup kitchen, a clothes closet and for a host of other organizations that provided shelter, a warm meal, and companionship for the homeless. As part of the Summer Service Project, I lived in a building that used to be Aurora's municipal incinerator and kept in touch with a responsible and accommodating Notre Dame Alumni club. I shared my trials and tribulations with a wonderful friend, Eileen Huie, and many other dedicated service workers, while I took time out personally to reflect journalistically. While I had certainly read about the injustices to expect, I had never experienced them first hand. My year abroad prepared me for living in foreign environments, but it certainly didn't prepare me for the dose of reality that accompanied my roller coaster experience.
Through constant interaction with the homeless, I learned that THEY exist. Yes, the marginalized, the forgotten and the impoverished are out there. And they are waiting for all those "blessed" with the spoils, talents and gifts bestowed upon them by God to give back. Not because they want it. Not because they expect it. And not even because they've "earned" it. But because they need it.
One person that needs our help is Carl Jones. You see, Carl had a tough time being a father, brother and spousal figure at 10 years of age. He could only discipline his four younger siblings, demand that they listen to their mother and wash them and put them to bed so many times. He could only question and reprimand his 10-year-old peer's attitudes and disrespect for elders over a certain period. The time to help this child may have come and gone for he was forced to choose between his mother and his aunt in a confrontational altercation in the Hesed House parking lot only weeks after I left.
Two other children that need our help are Jordan and Michael Moctezuma. But that chance has probably passed too. Because she had neither the money or time to see a doctor, and thanks to a health care system that should have, but didn't, prevent their mother's death, they are all alone in this world with no true parental figure. No longer will they have someone tolerate their poor behavior and love them through every moment of their fighting.
Fortunately, we can prevent cases like these, and luckily, all of us at Notre Dame have a great opportunity lying in our laps. Over 200 students at Notre Dame had the chance to experience a project similar to mine this summer. And I'm positive that they have stories just like mine.
I'm sure someone else got to hear their own Jones family member ask them, "Kevin, what chu doin'?" or "Kevin, where Eileen at?" I know someone else got to hear their own Marisol Moctezuma smile like nothing happened after you just overheard her yell at Jordan and Michael for an hour straight in their bedroom which shares a thin wall with your living quarters. I bet someone else listened to a lonely and abused woman as she expressed her difficulties with paying her sick son's hospital bills, and I'm certain they held her as she cried about her homeless shelter living conditions. Moreover, it's safe to say that someone else has been drawn to serve people in need like I have.
Summer Service Projects, and other projects focused on insuring social justice, can be found all over campus. I challenge we the students and faculty to discover them and make a difference. For eldest family members this is a great chance. I couldn't proudly write you this article today and boast about my bothers and my school record for the number of Summer Service Projects in a family, if my oldest brother, John, hadn't started the tradition. If you're not the eldest, there's no law against making an impact on other family members or friends and starting a tradition. These projects are a special opportunity for all individuals of the Notre Dame community.
My incentive for writing this article is the possibility of someone else sharing the gifts of a Summer Service Project like I have. My hope is that someone else will have a child or adult in need ask them to push them higher on the swing of life like so many asked me. My desire to spread the news about a rewarding opportunity has its roots entrenched in the soil of this University's mission statement. It is up to you and I, the members of the Notre Dame community, to act upon the injustice of the world.
Consider this request to make a more humane world your own personal letter addressed to you…
Kevin Dunn is a junior government and spanish major. For a More Just and Humane World is a bi-weekly column sponsored by the Center for Social Concerns. Comments and discussions are welcome at ND.email@example.com.
The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Viewpoint Stories for Thursday, November 18, 1999