I applied for this trip in the middle of September. I had been on College Hill for less than a month and had begun to realize that while you may know someone on the surface, but until you know their past, you might not fully understand their present. When asked about my trip preference (there is another ASB trip going to Tennessee over spring break), this is what I responded:
During a diversity workshop during Orientation, one classmate responded that while many Lafayette students might wear Sperry Topsiders, JCrew, and North Face, there is no typical Lafayette student—everyone has a unique story. Furthermore, these unique stories often time include hardships unknown to most people. What I did not know at the time is that this classmate, now one of my closest friends at Lafayette, struggles with ADD. After having reflected on the different excerpts from the diversity presentation and having spoken with this friend, I realize that there is so much more to each person than that is seen on the surface. I particularly want to work with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities so that I cannot only show compassion, but also so that I can learn how the disabilities affect their lives. With this new knowledge, I would like to help educate the Lafayette community about people living with disabilities so that they, too, have a better understanding of these daily struggles. It is my hope that with this knowledge, both students at Lafayette and I think twice about how we judge people—that we get to know each individual thoroughly before making assumptions about why they act the way they do.
Now fast forward to this past week. By the time Sunday, March 4th came around, I had been at Lafayette for almost a semester and a half. Everything had been going smoothly all year: classes, soccer, friendships, etc. Every once and a while, I would learn something about one of my friend’s past hardships, which briefly reminded me how easy my childhood was in comparison. Anyhoo, everyone had warned me that I would inevitably hit a freshman wall, and this past week definitely was my freshman wall.
Sunday night, my freshman wall began to form when I went to the McKelvy dinner discussion (everyone should go to at least one during their 4 years!) and loved it. Immediately following the discussion, I had to go to the freshman housing discussion. Long story short, everything started being turned upside down in regards my perspective on housing for next year. Ultimately, by the end of the discussion, I had realized that I wanted to apply to McKelvy, and I had my teammates’ support. The two-hour discussion between the eight of us had been somewhat long and awkward and it was inevitable that feelings would be hurt. It was slightly draining emotionally, but this little bump in the road was a good test for everyone’s friendships because as the saying goes, “true friendship isn’t about being there when it’s convenient; it’s about being there when it’s not.”
The next day I was able to begin my application to the McKelvy. Mid-morning there was a bit of a health scare in my family. Unable to get a hold of my parents to find out what was going on, I was stressed out and scared. Throughout the day, friends, faculty, and staff at Lafayette continually supported me when I needed help. By the end of the day, I had learned that my sister was sick, but was going to be okay. Tuesday went well, although I was tired from everything. That night, however, I could not fall asleep. With two hours of sleep and having gone through a tough few days (respectively speaking), I finally left my own pity party Wednesday morning when I realized how truly great and blessed my life is. It took me until I wrote down all the good things in my life to fully realize how ridiculous I was behaving given the circumstances. I was worried about housing at that point. My sister was going to be okay, so I didn’t need to worry about that. Here’s an excerpt:
What is good in my life right now:
-I’m at the school I love.
-The people at Lafayette are great.
-Some important people in my life have stepped up and been there for me.
-My parents are healthy, supportive, and love me.
-My family is healthy (for the most part).
-The housing issue is trivial. Worst case? In a shitty dorm at the school I love.
-Cosmic Cup is always open when I need it.
There were many more bullet points on the list to remind me how great my life is. On the other side of the list, I put a poem that kept popping up in my mind this week. I had read it in Honors American Literature in high school, but found that it is applicable in college.
Edwin Arlington Robinson
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean-favoured and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good Morning!” and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich, yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine — we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked and waited for the light,
And went without the meat and cursed the bread,
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet in his head.
At the bottom of the poem, I wrote, “You don’t know everyone’s story. People definitely have it worse. Pull it together because you are only dealing with trivial issues in the grand scheme of things. What does not kill you makes you stronger. #firstworldproblems. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
Essentially, I had come to the same conclusion that I wrote about in my ASB application. I had once again realized that I don’t know everyone’s story, but I know my own and I have been so lucky.
This week I have become more grateful, become closer friends with people because we faced adversity together, and got to enjoy one of the prettiest 70 degree winter March days Easton, PA has ever seen. All and all, I’d say that it was the perfect week to lead up to ASB Virginia.
In September, I had answer why I wanted to participate in ASB and what I hoped to gain. Here is my response:
First and foremost, I want to help people. I do not have as much time as I would like to volunteer during school because of the time commitment required of being a Division 1 soccer player. I have, however, a break from soccer during spring break. Secondly, after having spent a week in New Orleans for a service trip during my junior year of high school, I learned the importance of showing solidarity with those in need. Prior to the trip, I had pictured myself building houses; instead I was assigned to assist with much smaller projects such as helping seventh graders learn about the bayou and doing yard work at a house abandoned after the hurricane. I felt that I was not really doing much until I met Miss Madeline, an older woman whose house was destroyed by Katrina. When she returned to New Orleans, Miss Madeline sought volunteers to help rebuild her house and community. She was proactive and full of hope, even after all of the devastation. She taught me that even the smallest acts count to others and that just by being in New Orleans, I was helping the people’s hope and spirit. This message carries over to all acts of service. Thus I want to participate in Alternative School Break to not only help improve people’s physical environments, but also show solidarity. Ultimately, I hope to gain a better understanding about living life with a disability or living in rural Appalachia.
My response still remains the same. I want to help people, show solidarity, but also see how people who face real adversity respond and keep such a positive outlook on life. As the Zac Brown Band sings it, “It’s funny how it’s the little things in life/That mean the most/Not where you live or what you drive/Or the price tag on your clothes/There’s no dollar sign on a piece of mind/This I’ve come to know.”
So with that, I’m off to Cosmic so I can start the trip with a tall Mexican hot chocolate with a shot of espresso and a bialy with strawberry jam! I hope everyone has a wonderful spring break!
Abby Williams, Class of 2015