Why Working at a College Affirms My Faith in Humanity

Anyone who knows me knows I'm an eternal optimist, always seeking the good from the bad, the opportunity from the difficulty. When tragedies like the Boston bombing strike, I can't help but search for the silver linings, to find "that human beings have greatness and holiness within them like seeds that open only under great fires," as my brilliant colleague Brian Doyle, author and editor of the University of Portland alumni magazine, wrote in "Leap," in my opinion the single greatest poem about 9/11 ever written. 



Which is why working at a college is so life-affirming, so nourishing to a soul ever in search of the goodness in the world. My main job title is media relations - I moonlight as a social media admin - and every day I hear stories about amazing, passionate, committed, altruistic young people.

Just this week, I'm working on a story about a student from Haiti who survived the earthquake, helped rebuild the orphanage he grew up in, managed to get a scholarship through the generosity of some amazing people, and has spent his entire freshman year at UP serving others. I'm working on a story about a student who spent much of her high school career alone and homeless, living in a car. But she kept going to school, nurtured the dream of going to college, got a scholarship, and is now finishing her second year as a nursing student. I'm working on a story about an amazing young man who has Friedreich's Ataxia, a rare disease for which there is no cure and that progressively gets worse. As a freshman, he could get around campus on a recumbent bicycle. As a senior, he's in a motorized wheel chair and his condition makes everyday tasks exhausting. But he tirelessly advocates to raise money for research, to help future generations of people like him. He has raised more than $100,000, organizing large events (including one tonight, a wheelchair basketball game featuring UP student-athletes) and rallying students and parents alike with his endless enthusiasm and determination.

And that's just this week! There are countless stories of students doing good work in the community, students using their talents and abilities to make the world a better place, students rising to - and surpassing - the challenges life puts in front of them. And students gathering together in hope, uniting to pray for the victims of tragedy, like hundreds did last night at a campus candlelight vigil (pictured left), fully organized by students and spread through social media.

When we get caught up in the everyday details of our job, sometimes we forget how truly lucky we are to work with and for these inspirational young people.

The world may seem dark this morning, but our future is so wonderfully bright with these students leading the way.

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As a final note, I'm going to include a video of Brian Doyle's "Leap" that features audio of him reading it on Oregon Public Broadcasting's radio show "Think Out Loud" in 2010. Again, in my opinion, this is the greatest poem written about 9/11 ever - and the author works down the hall from me. I live a charmed life. It's about how even in the darkest of horror, grace exists and there is always a reason for faith. Full text of the poem is available here.

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