Community of concern?

One of my goals for my last year at the College is to try something new every week.  Since making it to bed before Daily Messages isn’t working out so well, when my friend asked if I wanted to volunteer with her at a benefit dinner for The Spruces, I went along lightheartedly. “What a nice thing to do on a Saturday afternoon,” I reasoned, wondering at the same time when the pregame for my friend’s birthday party would start that evening.

As we prepared to depart from campus, I met some new people I didn’t know.  There weren’t many of us, but, as we veteran Ephs know, a small group is nothing new for events like this. Two cars took us to the American Legion in North Adams, a small, unassuming building like so many other buildings in the area.

Our job was to help serve salad and spaghetti to people who attended the event, but I found myself not really doing much of anything except feeling like I was in the way as I drank too much apple cider.

All of this was fine and I wasn’t really paying much attention to what was going on until I started noticing the sad faces of the cooks, people from Dining Services who had organized the event. I saw their sad eyes, staring at the piles of food left uneaten. And then it hit me – I wasn’t doing anything because there was nobody there.

We tried to cheer the cooks up, saying that it was still too early for dinner at four-o’clock, but as the clock slowly ticked to six and too many plates remained unused, the reality of the situation was unavoidable. Few chairs had been filled and even the exuberant yells of two adorable kids running around could not lift the crushed looks from the cooks’ faces.

It was heartbreaking.

Texts and emails were sent to friends and groups but to no avail. I completely recognize the problems of transportation and living in “the middle of nowhere,” but the stark lack of response was, and is, not only disheartening but also chilling. We complain about the purple bubble, but what do we actually do about it? We make excuses about the tons of work awaiting us in our study carrels – but what, I have to ask myself, is the ultimate purpose  of all this work? What is our larger goal as we cringe at the sound of Schow’s nerd bell or huddle in Paresky as the sun sadly rises upon our all-nighters?

I know that everyone faces daily the tricky act of balancing a precarious plate as we run to meetings and then run to practice. Maybe, though, that is why I was so incredibly struck by this experience. Don’t get me wrong. I still ask when the party’s starting and enjoy my coffee at Tunnel City as I flip through my course packet. After all, these small moments are important, too, and help shape our sense of community at the College. But, we are also not alone.

Less than five minutes away is a community  devastated by a natural disaster. I remember rolling my eyes at the news, only wondering if Hurricane Irene had messed up the roads I drove on to get to school. However, there were real consequences that people are still struggling to overcome on a daily basis.  We don’t have to wait to enter the “real world” to make a difference; our world right now is just as real and genuine, and our participation is needed.


Shela Suh ’12 is an English major from Clarksville, Md. She lives in Chadbourne. 

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