Service and Readings Analysis
“Mending Wall” by Robert Frost, “Learning to Read” by Frances E. W. Harper” and “Accident, Mass. Ave.” by Jill McDonough, are all connected by their different depictions of discrimination and stereotypes. However, “The Service or Faith and Promotion of Justice in Jesuit Higher Education” by Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach and my service with Unified Theater, illustrate how service can destroy false stereotypes and discrimination; as well as change both parties for the better.
During both my junior and senior year of high school I was a leader for the club, Unified Theater. Unified Theater offers students with physical and mental disabilities to partake in writing and creating their own production, as well as being actors and actresses in it. Many of the children who participate in the club have little or no self-esteem or independence, yet by being able to produce a production all on their own, I have seen first hand the confidence and pride that grows in them. Several of the parents tell us how their child feels like a normal kid and how the only thing they talk about is their play. It is from my time at Unified Theater that I have learned to break the stereotype that a special needs child is different then a normal child. They aren’t; they have dreams, creativity, humor, wit, and joy just like any other person.
“Mending Wall” is a poem about two neighbors who walk together to fix the stone fence that separates their two properties from one another. Throughout the poem the narrator questions the necessity of the fence and separation of their two yards. After telling the narrator tells his neighbor they do not need the fence, the narrator thinks, “Why do they [fences] make good neighbors?” (29). Just like I questioned discrimination in my service, the narrator is questioning the discrimination between him and his neighbor. He views it as unnecessary because there is no difference between them; they both have yards full of trees.
“Learning to Read” is a poem about a former slaves being taught how to read by Yankee teachers. The narrator, Chloe, describes how when they were slaves their masters, “…always tried to hide/Book learning from our eyes;/Knowledge did’nt agree with slavery…” (5-7). Because of the color of their skin, the former slaves were never given the opportunity to read even though they were determine too. This connects to how like many of the students in Unified Theater had always wanted to be able to join the drama club but were unable to because people believed them to be incapable.
“Accident, Mass. Ave.” is a poem about the narrator and the women who backed into the narrator’s car. Both the narrator and the women act as they think society would want them too, swearing and yelling at each other: “…we both knew, that the thing to do/is get out of the car, slam the door/as hard as you fucking can and yell things like What the fuck were you thinking?” (10-12). This belief of the “Boston way to act” can be seen as a stereotype that both the narrator and the women believe and follow in the poem.
Finally, “The Service or Faith and Promotion of Justice in Jesuit Higher Education” is about Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach explaining how important a Jesuit education is to both the community and oneself. In his’s explanation, Fr. Kolvenbach writes how the 1971 Synod of Bishops declared, “…the church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation” (24). Part of a Jesuit education is to understand that stereotypes are false and lead to discrimination, but to also break the stereotypes through service. I can connect this to what I tried to do in Unified Theater; I strived to show the kids that the stereotypes about their abilities were false through helping them create their production.
Overall, these poems, novel and service experience are connected through their depiction of stereotypes and discrimination but also through their examples of how to break these stereotypes. Through these readings we can learn to not just better ourselves but also our communities.