The Gift of Altruism
There are countless experiences throughout our lives when we witness altruistic acts; handing quarters or food to a homeless person, paying for someone’s groceries, sending a card to the grieving or forgotten. It is in our nature as humans to feel empathy and compassion for others but not everyone acts upon those emotions. Altruism is the selfless concern for the well-being of others without regard to any factors other than that they are human. This sheds all stereotypes of gender, religion, culture, and sexual orientation and places humanity firmly in the forefront, allowing us to see others as we see ourselves: persons of equal worth.
Texas Wesleyan University students practice altruism on a regular basis across campus and within the greater North Texas Community. The Student Government Association funds study abroad opportunities for students, provides campus organizations funding for events, and funds a Christmas party for the children of the Polytechnic community each year. Campus fraternities and sororities regularly collect donations for food pantries and other important social services. The Gay-Straight Alliance hosts fundraising events that benefit at-risk and homeless youth. Mortar Board provides school supplies for elementary schools within the community and throughout the world. All these organizations act upon a need within humanity, but what is often unseen is how they work together in many instances to create a greater impact. The Rosedale Renaissance is an example of how people can come together to bring a community into a state of well-being by renovating properties, beautifying the area, and lowering the crime rate.
Each organization, as well as each person in the organization, looks beyond the differences of those in need and sees instead families like their own with parents who are aging, children who need new shoes, unpayable utility bills, and jobs that keep them from spending time with their children and friends. Those in need bury loved ones, cry, go to school, have dreams and goals, and ultimately want to be happy. These things are not political or religious, they are human problems that humans can solve through altruism. By shedding the negative attitudes from within ourselves we promote a community of love and compassion for all.
What you wish to see in the world is reflected in your actions. Be the gift.
The Gift of Change
Most Texas Wesleyan University students may know of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the 14th Dalai Lama through various quotes posted across their pictures on social media. These small glimpses into the thoughts of great leaders serve mainly to inspire the reader to think perhaps more deeply into their own consciousness, or propel them into a more thoughtful understanding of larger world events. What they do not disclose is the path which led these great men to such a deep understanding of the human condition and the long, arduous battle for human rights around the world. Knowing their story helps us, as individuals and as a society, to see our own obligation to our local and global community. How will we, as TxWes students, identify social justice issues and enact change? What might your greatest legacy be to this planet?
Desmond Tutu grew up in South Africa under the strict racial segregation of apartheid. His plan was to become a teacher, educating others to raise the quality of life for black South Africans. What he did not expect was to be so deeply touched by a priest who ministered to all people regardless of skin color or socio-economic status. Tutu felt that if this man could speak out against injustice he could as well, and so he entered the ministry. Though South Africa was filled with violence he called for peaceful solutions to end racial bias. Bishop Tutu was not a pacifist and warned that when peaceful actions do not work violence always comes next. He petitioned world governments to place sanctions on South Africa, knowing this was the last option, yet his cries for help were ignored. Even from his prison cell Tutu felt the struggle for justice would succeed because it was just, and he was right. As South Africa ended apartheid, Desmond Tutu began looking to human rights violations throughout the world, becoming a champion for equal treatment of all people. Working with a group of former world leaders aptly named The Elders, which included Jimmy Carter and Nelson Mandela, he was able to bring human rights issues to the world stage.
The 14th Dalai Lama watched his homeland taken over by China, causing Tibetans to flee to India. The Dalai Lama himself has been in exile much of his life and understands the suffering Tibetans have experienced for several generations. Though exiled, he continues speaking out for the people of Tibet, asking that they be allowed self-governance of their country and to live and worship freely without violence. Like Desmond Tutu, he speaks to world leaders and asks assistance in finding solutions to the difficulties with China and the plight of his people. In speaking of human value he insists the only way to value all humans is to support and respect all religious traditions, that we have a moral responsibility to each other and we must show more respect and compassion to instill self-confidence and reduce fear. The Dalai Lama met with Nelson Mandela in the past and has also taken up the cause of human rights violations in other parts of the world.
Students across the Texas Wesleyan campus have demonstrated their commitment to ending human rights violations since this university first opened its doors. From its initial founding as a small women’s college educating those who were still denied the right to vote, to a university serving men and women of every racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic background, students have initiated and achieved change. They have created a vision of diversity within the student population and cultivate understanding in order to create citizens who are knowledgeable and respectful of all cultures, religions, and sexual orientation. As students we should celebrate this diversity because of the tremendous contributions each gives to the whole of the university community, and how this prepares us when we carry our experiences with us into the larger community.
Both Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama believed they must act to bring about change because the responsibility rests firmly on the shoulders of the world community, and this universal responsibility is the foundation for world peace. While they have devoted their lives in the quest for human rights, how do we as college students remove the barriers of difference and take a larger role in addressing the issues of human rights violations around the world?
Every life we touch is changed. Being a student at Texas Wesleyan University provides us the ability to be the gift of change.
The Gift of Compassion
Students who have transferred to Texas Wesleyan University from larger universities know that it is easy to fall into small groups of like-minded individuals, often never finding the opportunity to fully explore the diversity throughout their campus. This is not the case at TxWes where the student population is small and richly diverse, representing a large number of countries, states, cultures, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. Our small campus, with its enormous diversity, gives students the opportunity to learn about those who are different and share their own differences in a positive and respectful atmosphere.
This type of understanding builds relationships across all divisive lines and cultivates compassionate behaviors of empathy, concern, sensitivity, leniency, kindness, and charity. Texas Wesleyan is unique in that it functions as its own ecosystem allowing students to concern themselves with relationships they share with those of differing faiths, cultures and lifestyles. When we carry the experiences from these relationships with us into the global community we are more prepared to practice compassion and respect, seeing the good in each person and appreciating the richness they bring into our lives.
I am reminded of how the entire TxWes community came together this past year upon learning of the devastating earthquake in Nepal. Many of our students were personally affected by this tragedy and spent days waiting to hear from family and friends in Nepal, fearful of the news these phone calls would bring. Students worked together quickly to organize a candlelight vigil and they raised money to aid earthquake victims. Most importantly they held each other as a community, giving love and support to those with whom relationships had been built across all lines of differences. There were no men or women, no gay or straight, no conservative or liberal, no color, no country, no difference. There was a community of compassionate people, creating connections one to the next out of love for their fellow human being.
We are fortunate, here at Texas Wesleyan, to learn these important lessons in such a loving and supportive atmosphere. Our diverse student family helps us to receive and education, not just a diploma.