The name St. Mary’s College of Maryland is steeped in meaning and tradition. We have long identified ourselves based on the sense of community people experience when they come here, or when they visit. As an institution, we have never doubted who we are, or what we do.
We are a community built on the foundation of openness, kindness and caring. We are active in the world, both on the small and large scale. In many ways, we already make such a difference in so many places.
However, over the years I’ve noticed a disturbing trend that reaches to every level of the campus community. People are beginning to care less about each other and about what this institution does. Many people who see a problem will complain about it, and then expect someone else to take care of it.
When walking down the path, most of us stare straight ahead, for fear of making eye contact with a stranger. There’s certainly not the culture of saying hi to everyone on the path these days. Heck, a number of people simply turn up their iPods and tune out the world.
Just the other day, someone came up to me during my office hours and said, “as a whole, we just don’t care any more.” While I wouldn’t go that far, she had a good point, and she’s not the only one I’ve been hearing it from.
I still know that we have a wonderful community when it comes to integrating new students into the campus culture, or banding together for the occasional service project. People are still passionate about the clubs they’re in, or the sports teams they play for.
Academics are certainly not falling to the wayside, as we continue to excel as the “Honors College” of Maryland. In no way am I implying that we have become an apathetic institution. I’m just saying that we need to rise above what is expected of us and open our eyes to the world of possibilities before us.
Margaret Mead once said, “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” What I see when I walk down the path everyday is a small group of thoughtful people. There are two thousand of us, which in our insulated life by the river may seem like a lot, but in the grand scheme of things is really quite small.
The best thing about changing the world is that it doesn’t require titans or legendary figures such as Leonidas or Caesar. Ordinary students such as us can make a difference by being mindful of our actions. To live mindfully and in the present can help bring about a cultural transformation.
For now, all I ask is that we begin with small actions. When we pass a stranger on the path, say hello. Instead of stepping over a piece of trash, pick it up and put it in the next trash can. When people ask you for help, thoughtfully consider it before making a decision, and whenever possible, choose to help them.
If you feel as though you have the time, maybe even look into doing something larger. Get creative with how to better our community, no matter how big or how small the action may be. By bettering ourselves as a group, we put ourselves in better positions and better states of mind to go forth into the world and make a difference.
To quote Gandhi, “be the change you want to see in the world.”
Much love to all, and I’ll see you on the path!