Launch: Flying above and beyond simple service

Lottie L. Joiner had a fantastic interview with Beverly Wright.  They talked about her Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, a program she developed to work with people “who were vested in the struggle, who would not leave when spring break was over or after the summer, and provide them with skills that would be necessary for them to build coalitions and networks.” There were other parts of the interview that focused on Miss Wright’s path to becoming who she is today and environmental issues that are prevalent today in New Orleans.  I quoted the above passage because of the readings, that stuck with me.  It followed me about like a starving dog follows the local butcher.  But looking closer at the writing, there is an implicit binary incorporated here.  Wright is contrasting the students helping out on breaks with the people in the community.  She subtly jabs at student volunteers, claiming they are not vested in the community and essentially on loan; the students come in, do some work, make themselves proud, then go back to their middle class lives and their universities.  This being an English class focused on urban issues, and since we are all a part of a service oriented community, Wright’s criticism brings to mind a common theme of service discussions: how do we go beyond simply doing service and then going back to our lives.  How do we invest ourselves in the community even though we are not members of it. I know that personally, it is hard not to distinguish between my life here at SLU and the lives of the middle school students I work with at Fanning Middle School.  I don’t claim to know the answer as to how to combine the two, but I will say that I know that we should strive to do so.  Ultimately, at the bare minimum, we are all humans, and as such should be able to relate well to each other, but for some reason I sometimes struggle to do exactly that.  My own goal, and I hope to inspire a similar one in all of you, is to be able to relate to those whom I help, to be vested in their lives such that I don’t simply help them in the summer and then return to my everyday life.  They deserve so much more than that.  Thanks guys, and have a wonderful week.



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