After class last Monday, I made my regular trek to Reservoir to take the T to Copley, only to walk twenty minutes to my PULSE placement in the South End … in a blizzard. No, it was not much fun, but the trip to PULSE is worth it every time.
I’ve noticed that many of my PULSE program peers spend an awful lot of time complaining about the service commitment attached to a class that they elected to take. Often, I myself am guilty of complaining about traveling to my PULSE placement, but, despite the often unpleasant commute, I am learning much more at my placement than I ever could in a classroom.
In April of my senior year of high school I committed to BC only after attending a PULSE class. I thought that a school with a commitment to service as well as social justice was exactly where I needed to spend the best four years of my life. Now as a current PULSE student rather than an outsider looking in, I know that PULSE is more difficult than I had anticipated but no less fulfilling.
Whine as I sometimes might about my biweekly hike to the South End, I have a responsibility to a group of 5-7-year-olds and their community. At my placement in an after school program, I have formed relationships with kindergarteners and first graders that I previously had not known one could form with children so young. The one time I missed a scheduled placement day due to illness, my next visit was met with several accusations of “You weren’t here.”
Previously, I had not been aware that my absence would be so strongly felt by the tiny humans, but the reprimand full of disappointment made me very aware that my not being there had let them down. Until the end of the fall semester, many of them did not know my name, and I felt as though I was just one in a slew of privileged college students sent to play with them, and that a name, to someone with that identity, was not important.
When the first little face turned up to mine with disappointment at my previous absence, I knew that my being there was specifically necessary. It is not just someone’s presence that the children in the after school program need, it is constant and familiar presence; they need reliable role models in their lives, people to help them sound out words and to teach them games.
As a PULSE student, I have learned to function best where I am needed, and how to serve others while teaching myself. Though I’m not often happy about the travel commitment, the beginning of the second semester has shown me that my presence matters at my placement. I no longer feel that I am filling a role that could be occupied by anyone.
Now that I am more than halfway through my time as a PULSE student, I have changed my perspective on service. Initially, I thought that anything I would be asked to do in placement was something that anyone could do. I had no idea that I would matter as an individual, serving in a way that only I can.
In the end, I’m probably going to continue complaining about walking through the South End in rain, snow, sleet and hail, but then I’m going to remind myself that my service matters to the community I serve, and to my own education.
In Gandhi’s words, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” We PULSE students might be losing our minds navigating dark Boston streets and unreliable public transportation schedules, but we are finding new senses of responsibility, of ourselves and of others, and that’s nothing to complain about.