Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Art of Arse-Kissing

The conversation that we had in class on Tuesday about arse-kissing truly resonated with me when reflecting on the goals I wish to achieve through my service throughout the semester. While I would certainly lose my volunteer position if not get arrested if I tried so much as to touch any of the people I tutor on a regular basis, metaphorically speaking, it is just this type of arse-kissing that I hope to be able to do with them.

My goal is to create equality, trust and comfort between myself and the women and children that I tutor. Without such a relationship it is impossible for us to learn from each other or to build a camaraderie in which we view one another as equals. I have found this easier to do with the women at the Caroline Center than the children at Guilford. This is due in large part to the fact that I am there more frequently and see the same small group of women each time. At Guilford I still feel like I am a little bit of an alien presence that descends upon the school every Thursday afternoon. There is only one student who I have come in contact with on several occasions and despite my best efforts I have not yet been able to crack him. He is an extremely intelligent boy, or at least one who is very good at memorizing facts, who comes after school to study for class before heading off to his second after-school program. Once we burn through his study sheet I try to ask him about himself. He politely answers directly to the point and no farther. I helped him clean up the classroom, which I believe surprised him, but still didn’t grant me access to the inner-workings of his 11 year old mind. If he remembers my name I’ll be satisfied.

On the other hand, I have come to get to know a little bit about each of the women at the Caroline Center and we have come to develop a familiarity with each other that Hau’ofa seems to suggest can create an equality that could ultimately be the solution to world peace. I cannot help but think of how we would view each other had we met under different circumstances. It is possible that one woman could be my cashier somewhere or even just someone I pass on the street and, without a doubt, we would have made certain assumptions about the other that are ingrained into our minds through the media, fear and unsupported prejudices. I would appear to be a snobby, selfish Loyola student and chances are I would assume her to be uneducated, unmotivated and without a future. These things could not be farther from the truth. While, of course, I am a Loyola student, I’d like to think that I’m not snobby or selfish and these women are possibly more motivated to get their education than most Loyola students are. I have heard many of them say things such as “I never miss school,” “I’m here every day…” or “I only miss school when I’m sick.” Many college students, on the other hand, tend to lean more towards “It’s over 60 and sunny out…I don’t need to go to class today” or “I’m kind of tired, I’ll get the notes from someone.” We’re all guilty of it. Perhaps because we feel entitled, perhaps because we know that missing a day will not be detrimental to our grade because we can usually bounce back, unless the attendance policy sneaks up on us. It doesn’t work that way for these women. They need to learn what is taught in class every day because they need to get their GED in order to succeed in the current economy. Sure, if they miss a day they can get the assignment but they do not have time like we do after school to make it up because they are juggling jobs and raising children, often by themselves. As Hau’ofa and Kolvenbach encourage, by being in direct contact with such strong women who I might have otherwise written off, I believe we are all experiencing the expansive vision that it is possible for humans to have. By recognizing that there is no inferior or superior group, eliminating fear and finding that common ground that can open up the world we are individually taking the steps towards creating a new future that doesn’t have to be like reality is now.

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