“Men and women for others” – Pedro Arrupe SJ
I was educated by the Jesuits who taught me to be a man for others. At school, I reached out through charity work, welcoming the new student, and sacrificing myself on the running field. At university abroad, I cared for the Irish students, worked for the church, and helped friends to run better. Afterwards, I volunteered at an orphanage and a hospital, before becoming ill and returning to Ireland. When I got better, I worked with asylum seeking children and school children. However, my health continued to suffer and I slowly learned to take care of myself. Now, I manage to integrate this value through my commitment to this blog and maintaining a balanced mood for a balanced life.
A quality educator
I pondered from the perspective of an educator this week as I had to cover a story about my former principal who died. Paddy Crowe SJ spent his whole life working in schools and he knew the importance of values in the life of a student. At one school where he was teacher, prefect, rector, spiritual father, and headmaster, he said: “We think Clongowes is a good school and to it we are willing to give our time, our energy, our humanity, our life”. What gave him so much purpose and sense of mission? What values did he himself possess? “Educational value,” he said once, “is based largely on personal contact of good people with the young.” This is the kind of quality educator we want for our world. I can only begin to imagine the positive influence he has had on thousands of students.
“One cannot level one’s moral lance at every evil in the universe. There are just too many of them. But you can do something, and the difference between doing something and doing nothing is everything” – Daniel Berrigan SJ
Going the extra mile
While on the bus this week, I got a gentle kick on the shoulder from my neighbour Jimmy who wanted me to help a foreign woman find her hotel. She knew it was the Hilton at Dublin airport but she didn’t know where to get off. From memory I realised it wasn’t actually at the airport; I told them it was in the Darndale area. Then, Me and Jimmy had to get off at our own stop, so we looked around for anybody else who might be able to point out the hotel to the woman. Another Dubliner was glad to help, and all of a sudden the place seemed to come alive as there was a bit of banter between us. We left the bus and the foreign woman happily waved goodbye.
As I reflected later that day, I realised that we went the extra mile by showing values of hospitality, community, and fun. At the same time, I showed self-care by getting off at my own stop instead of staying on the bus and disrupting my day. Regarding self-care, New York Time’s best-selling author Melody Beattie says: “The issue is not whether others see or care. The issue is whether we see and care about ourselves.” This time I got the perfect balance between respect for myself and others, and I experienced a natural high.
I think that a lot of people believe in helping their neighbour and there is a lot of good will out there, for example, paying respects at a funeral, helping an elderly neighbour cross the road, and saying a friendly “hello”. But I think we find it harder ‘to help the stranger’: to be an active bystander at a road accident, to patiently give directions to a foreigner, and to volunteer at a soup kitchen for the homeless. Yes, we may do these things but I wonder if they are deep-rooted.
Joe Duffy’s radio show Liveline certainly gives hope as he often hears listeners talk about receiving random acts of kindness from strangers. To have anchored quality values would be good news for our society, for it makes us alive with life and love. It is experienced in our being and others can see it. What’s more, we can be strengthened in self-care and self-worth while being men and women for others.