I have found the service-learning component of my work this semester to be very rewarding. There were several instances where I was able to make a connection to the works we have read, and this greatly enhanced the impact of the content for me. If I had the chance to choose over again whether or not to participate in service-learning, I would do it without a doubt.
Something that often crosses my mind in regard to my experiences in the classroom is the fact that I will have only spent a limited amount of time with the kids; I will not know them after the semester ends, yet I have come to know them now in their first grade year. Thinking about this class in relation to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love, I wonder what some of these kids I have come to know will choose for themselves in their own lives. Will they go the conventional, expected route, or will they seek something different? Will they do both? I feel as though this experience at St. Mary’s has been a glimpse into the developing lives of a first grade class.
Gilbert talks about the individual’s inherent possession of the divine and everything within. And if this is true, and if everyone of us are left alone with ourselves all the time, what will we choose for our own lives? We have talked a lot about the adolescence’s participation in the process of making his or her home in the world, of becoming in adult. As we have seen, there are no clear thresholds. Gilbert’s journey reflects this process, and she is in her early thirties. Liz ultimately finds an inner peace that was present within her all along. This results in her realization that everything around her reflects this inner peace once it has been recognized from within. She dared to search for the answers to her questions. There was emptiness within her life, and rather than ignoring her feelings, she pursued them. She was a self-proclaimed spiritual seeker.
If all the answers are inside of us waiting to be unlocked, what then is the role of education and schooling? Observing and participating in the classroom has reminded me that it is about realizing this. The young first graders at St. Mary’s are cultivating an intellectual lifestyle that will lead them to want to pursue the answers to their questions. When they too look for something to believe in, they will seek out whatever may be right for them. Once you get to know the kids individually, this becomes apparent; they have unique personalities even for their young age, or maybe particularly because of their young age. “People follow different paths, straight or crooked, according to their temperament, depending on which they consider best, or most appropriate-and all reach You, just as rivers enter the ocean” (206). While God may be the answer for some, it is not for others. You to me may also mean yourself. I think this quote works in this use as well, and still follows Gilbert’s point. While I do not believe Gilbert is claiming that everyone ought to run off and travel the world for their entire lives without any permanent “real” life to tie you down, her points may expose a more important side of life. So whether Isaiah becomes a lawyer, Jade a teacher, or Mariah a doctor, it doesn’t matter because they will end up doing whatever is right for them. If they are able to find an inner peace as the one Gilbert finds, they will be lucky. Everyone’s path will be different, this is certain, but it is also important to recognize the possibility to maintain both a conventional as well as individual path, an antevasin-like existence.
Throughout the semester, we have dealt with loss, immersion, survival, continuity, globalization, strength, culture, internal and external forces, labels, humor, the past and the present, and much more. Each novel offered a unique commentary on very real issues we must deal with or not deal with. Regardless, they are present. The opportunity to do service-learning has only aided in the digestion and contemplation of such topics, topics we are always grappling with.