This reflection was submitted to apply for the Magis society. Originally separate essays, we edited them together so you could get a full sense of Nick’s story. The picture above is from Community Action Day, a program where Nick served as a site leader.
Over the past few years I have discovered the benefits of a couple different kinds of reflection. The first, an individual spiritual reflection, has facilitated a greater sense of self-knowledge and has demanded that I contemplate my relationship to the world as often as possible. By getting into a more routine habit of challenging myself to reflect on any experience, I have become more open to exploring certain aspects of my life and the lives all around me that I would not have otherwise seen. The second, which facilitated the understanding of the first reflective practice, is based on group discourse. Through several of the programs, like ASLS, Connexions, and Urban Plunge, I began to realize how active discussion and reflection out loud among groups of people could add another dimension to understanding an array of life experiences. By engaging in open discourse with community members as well as with other program members, it challenged me to absorb and synthesize the experiences of others in the context of our respective community engagement project. I began to understand that actively listening to people and groups provides a foundation for establishing human compassion and understanding.
By engaging in these community programs, I have come to understand that I must actively look for hidden social structures that uphold systemic social issues and that I must actively see how my life contributes to these structures and social issues. I have found that is very important to make sure that I do not remove myself from these social problems and that I must always understand that I participate in these problems whether I choose to engage these problems or not to engage them. Because my experiences at Xavier have meshed the understanding of societal and structural issues with the understanding of the effects of these issues on the human experience, they have challenged my understanding of solidarity and have solidified my understanding of what roles an individual can adopt. Ultimately, these experiences have made me realize that social change and social justice must be at the root of whichever profession/occupation I take on after college.
My experience of volunteering at the Crossroad Health Center challenged my understanding of community service and the impacts it has on me and on the community. After a few weeks of participating at the Health Center, I quickly realized that I was having very few opportunities to engage with community members. I began to feel “stuck” doing tasks such as filing/defiling, chart abstractions, and preparing medical records for15 hours a week. After reflecting on the feeling and speaking to several friends about the situation, I began to understand many of the paradoxes of community service. On one hand, I justified the situation by understanding that my role at the health center, although small and simple, was practical for the health center. I began to see my role there as expediting processes that relieved the strains on a non-profit organization, which in turn helped to provide services to those in need. However, I also realized that my approach to community service needs to combine two aspects: pragmatism and human relationships. I began to realize that experiences that have these two aspects were at the root, are the most impactful on the community and on me. My time volunteering at St. Francis Seraph’s soup kitchen further illuminated the importance of having the balance between these two aspects of service. It quickly became apparent that the man running the soup kitchen perceived the “service” as a duty that must be completed with efficiency. On one hand, the soup kitchen was extremely efficient and practical in that it provided food for the most people possible in the shortest amount of time possible. On the other hand, it was also, at times, dehumanizing due to its expediency. I attempted to find a more holistic balance in my experiences there by spending more time sitting and talking with the community members. This facilitated a much more impactful experience. As we began to break down the barrier of “us and them”, I found that everyone became much more open to sharing the human experience with one another –and established a service experience that was grounded by solidarity, not purely objective practicality. These ensured that everyone began to ask questions as to why we were there, why such a service may be needed in the first place, and what the community members though about it. This helped me to understand that an important aspect of engaging in community service is listening to the community members and learning from them and the situation so that we may contribute to remedies in the future.
I have begun to understand that I would like for the values that have been deepened over the past few years to dictate what I will do in the future. Finding fulfillment and meaning in my future positions will be rooted in these ideas. Many of these values have already shaped how have chosen to live my life and have demanded that I be much more aware and conscience of what role I am taking on in society. Thus, I hope that I may find something that enables me to utilize and propagate these values. Having always been interested in science and medicine, I hope to establish some future involving these two interests in context of actively pursuing relief to those suffering and remedies for the structures the perpetuate health inequalities that leads to this suffering. Furthermore, I would like to eventually expand my interests in medicine to becoming involved in public health and community development. Through this type of multidimensional work, I hope to create a life in which I can constantly pursue the tradition of the “preferential option for the poor” in the light of economic and health disparities.
Nick Pease is a graduating biology major who lent his time and talents to the CFJ over his years at Xavier through ConneXions, STAR, CAD, the Urban Plunge and more. Nick spent an academic service learning semester in Over-the Rhine. We have great hopes for the change Nick can bring through his passions for justice and health.