Have you heard of the Culture of Care Network (CCN) at USG? I first discovered CCN only a few weeks ago from one of its active members, Ms. Lisa Finn. Lisa encouraged me to check out CCN’s upcoming event, a discussion about connection, communication, and civility. This sounded interesting and different, so I decided to give it a chance.
About two weeks later, I found myself at the event watching a speech called “This is Water” by the late American novelist, essayist, and professor, David Foster Wallace. Through powerful rhetoric, Mr. Wallace described the typical day-to-day struggles of a middle class American adult – from having to deal with incredibly slow drivers on the freeway to having to listen to parents yelling at their obnoxious children in line at the supermarket after an already long, tiresome day at work. In these situations, we have a choice, Mr. Wallace asserted, to either be negative and convice ourselves that the universe is working against us or we can take a step back and remember that no matter how frustrating things are, there are always people around us who may be going through something much worse. And who knows? These people might include both the slow driver and the screaming parent with whom we are so annoyed.
This speeched sparked a lively discussion among the students, staff, and faculty who attended the event. During the hour that followed, stories, ideas and suggestions for how we can all avoid self centeredness (which, as Mr. Wallace suggested, is the easiest mode to default to), become more cognizant of the thoughts and feelings of the people around us, and ultimately support an environment where everyone can feel comfortable, respected, and included. Looking up from our phones while walking to say “good morning” or simply to smile at those around us is a good place to start. Inviting that person who tends to sit alone to have lunch with our group of friends is another. Asking a classmate about something meaningful we saw them post on Facebook recently could really make their day.
To be sure, going out of our way to do these things isn’t always easy or convenient. It takes effort. Especially if we’re not in the greatest mood, and especially if our efforts aren’t reciprocated or appreciated. But I truly believe, and I hope most of us can agree on this, that kindness can never be overrated. I think it’s wonderful that the Culture of Care Network exists at USG. CCN holds events like the one I attended throughout the year; and you can find out about them from the USG website and Facebook page, the USG Weekly newsletter, and flyers posted all around campus. If you’re interested, please visit the CCN page (link above) to learn more about its mission and objectives!