On being thankful: The importance of criticizing the things we love

One of the things I miss most about home is the food. My family constantly jokes about my grandmother’s real home being the kitchen — the place you can always find her and where you would have to physically drag her out of if you actually wanted to have a conversation with her. In her mind, food has the same power as a hug, a kiss, the support of your family – no matter what you’re going through at the moment. Therefore, she loves being able to bestow this gift on her grandchildren, especially those grandkids she hasn’t seen in a while, i.e. me. If anyone asks for the recipe for any of my grandma’s famous dishes, she would respond very matter-of-factly that she had made it con mucho amor, with lots of love.

I admit that, more often than not, I complain about the things I would love to have closer and more available to me on campus, like more ethnic food. But I know how hard the dining staff works to provide the student body with more than just our daily meals. The planning, decorations, kindness, time and labor they put in goes largely unnoticed. I am perfectly aware and grateful for the work they already do. I am sure they also work with mucho amor.

“You should be more thankful.” I’ve gotten that comment more than once from fellow students. The biting comment that I should stop expressing my opinion because I should be thankful to be here; I should be grateful to be at an institution that can afford the many resources we do have; I should be content with what I have been given. I can take these comments at their face value or I can look deeper and, as a proud Williams student, dig deeper.

At the suggestion that I – or other “whiny” students like me – am not being thankful enough for the space I occupy here, I can interpret this in no other way than by realizing they would like me to appreciate my very admission into this institution. That, had I not been lucky enough to be accepted, I would not have been received so seamlessly elsewhere, that I would not be able to enjoy the benefits that only the College can offer.

It is not far-fetched to see this as the typical response to immigrants and minorities who have been accepted into communities such as this one. Be thankful for your lot because it could have been worse. And if you don’t like it, leave. Being more thankful means that I have to constantly say out loud how much I appreciate the College.

When I “whine” about food, what I am really saying is that this college – and even some of its very students – still have a long way to go in fostering an inclusive and conducive environment to the variety of minority groups on campus. That one themed dinner a semester does not do nearly enough to celebrate and respect the diverse backgrounds that many people in our community come from.

When I “whine” it is to recognize that the administration of this school can do much more than just nod occasionally and include us on the front page of their website. But it is only out of the love and respect I have for this institution that I want to make sure it improves to reach the demands of the mission of this college.

It is only because of the wonderful faculty and staff who work hard to make this place what it is. It is only because of the students I see here who have overcome more obstacles than I could ever imagine that I want them to feel as comfortable, safe and welcomed here as I did. I want them to be as enamored of the College as I was and am because I saw the potential of what an environment like this could and does offer.

But I can be grateful to be at Williams and be critical of it at the same time. So the next time that you hear someone complaining about the food, dig deeper and understand where they are coming from. Trust me, they will be grateful, too.

Andrea Rodas ’18 is a comparative literature and French double major from Jackson Heights, N.Y. She lives in Currier Hall.