On Thoughtfulness

There you are sitting in class, or in the cafeteria, or in the Quarry, and you hear it: complaints about this college from other students. First off, I recognize that all students have the right to an opinion and to speak their minds. But there is a certain ungraciousness coupled with non-acknowledgment of our privilege in attending this school.

The issues are many: the service is not quick enough, the food is not as good as other colleges claim to be, etc. etc. ad infinitum. Many of us have seen this familiar situation: students treating workers with at best mild contempt and at worst full-out disrespect, then complaining about the food they have just been served, and finally going on their merry way with no ill conscience in the slightest.

I wish this were uncommon. Maybe I am jaded in a different manner: as a senior I have learned to take the good with the bad, to offer suggestions when I think changes are necessary, and to recognize the privilege I have in receiving the services I am offered simply by being a student at this college. For many students, such services are a given taken for granted. I need a bit more humanity.

Yet friendly reminders of thoughtful individuals appear everywhere, both in subtle and obvious ways: my fellow English major friend checking in on me after a tough weekend; my boyfriend saying “I have 24 favorite hours in the day;” having some of the best conversations with brilliant first-year students who I am so happy I met.

The first step is acknowledgment: of privilege, of opportunities, of service, of everything available at this college. No institution is perfect, but critiques should be both reasonable and offer clear advice about feasible improvements. Fresh produce and meat are provided from the college farm; service workers have long days just like the rest of us.
Thoughtfulness may be a rare, slowly eroding virtue, but it is also one of the most important values to preserve. Of course, we must be thoughtful of our own physical and mental needs because good health is crucial. But we do not exist in a self-contained bubble; everyone else around us deserves just as much respect as we expect from others. Smile at a stranger; talk to that person who you think seems interesting; go to a professor’s office hours and be interested in them; say thank you to the people who work hard to provide services, food, and resources to you. Karma will come around, and if it does not, then you have still had an impact on someone’s day. Be thoughtful.