Thursday, February 14, 2013

Fall in Love with Social Justice! (and the Bronx)

It's Valentine's Day here at Fordham.  That means lots of things to students:

Bake sales...

Candy Grams...

Arthur Avenue...

Wait.  What was that last one?

Arthur Avenue! Also known as "The Bronx's Little Italy", this culinary hotspot is the place to be for Fordham  students all throughout the school year.  Whether it be splitting a cannoli with your sweetie at Palombo's Bakery or grabbing a chicken parm hero sandwich to go at Tino's Salumeria, this Fordham Friendly (read: Discounts!) section of the Bronx is one of many opportunities for the Fordham student to immerse themselves in the surrounding Bronx community.

It is not, however, the only way...

For the do-gooders among you, there is a wonderful office here called the Dorothy Day Center for Service and Justice.  This little haven of social justice, located in the McGinley Student Center right next to the cafeteria, is a buzzing hub of activity.  Staffed by an incredible staff, there always seems to be some new and exciting project going on.  A new installment in their repetoire of monthly activities is something called "Sandy Saturdays".

As you all probably know, certain areas of NYC--particularly the Rockaways and sections of Long Island and Queens-- sustained horrible damage in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  Fordham students cried out for a way in which to serve these local communities in an organized way.  DDCSJ responded by implementing biweekly service days in which groups of students, accompanied by administrators, travel up to the Far Rockaways to assist Habitat for Humanity in aiding and rebuilding the community.

I participated in one such service day last semester.  While dragging myself out of bed before 7:30 am to join the group was certainly a difficult task, I was greeted by not only a warm cup of coffee, but the smiles and warmth of people who truly loved what they were doing and had a deep-seated passion for social justice.  Driving to the Rockaways provided ample time for us all to get to know each other and bond to a small degree.  Our leader lead us in a brief reflection prior to us setting out that asked us to consider what brought us to this point and what we expected to take out of the experience.  We chewed this over in our groups while we navigated the trafficked streets.

During the day, our group was broken up into smaller components, and the tasks we were given were both strenuous and small.  During the morning, my group helped fill a basement with sand and shovel a driveway clean.  The afternoon found us clearing out a crawl space of debris while craftsman created new floors.  This jobs were tiring, but we emerged covered in dirt and smiling the biggest smiles possible.  This was not because the jobs were momentous or even noticeable.  No, we were smiling because, small as it was,  we made a difference.  The joy of working together to accomplish a goal--small as it may be-- is a beautiful experience that I hope all of you will get to experience many times in your life.

Coming together at the end of the day and reflecting on what the day had done for us, we were all asked to think of one little thing that made the day worth it for us.  Sitting in that circle with that group of people I had come to know so well, I could not help but be deliriously, incoherently happy.  I felt so connected to not only this group of people, but to Fordham and the community we seek to serve.

I encourage all prospective students to look up the wonderful things going on here at Fordham.  In particular, I would tell you all to take at least a peek at the DDCSJ website.  Their many programs seek to unite the Fordham student with the community we find ourselves in in unique and fulfilling ways.  Through community partners from soup kitchens to daycares to clinics, who knows?  Maybe you will discover something that will -- to paraphrase the great St. Ignatius-- "set your world on fire"...

No comments:

Post a Comment