John-Paul Witt | Wednesday, May 2, 2007
My second year as a student here is coming to a close. That might not sound like much to you seniors, but I’ve come to refine certain feelings about this place that I’d like to share.
The first time I came to Notre Dame, I was a junior in high school. Being from Miami, Fla., I was not raised in a strong atmosphere of Notre Dame culture. No one in my family went to Notre Dame, and so I was unfamiliar with the campus.
As soon as I arrived, though, I felt something that most of you can relate to – there is something special about this place. Some ethereal presence is kindled in our hearts by the sight of the Dome blazing in the sun.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that the “Spirit of Notre Dame” exists not just in the Basilica, the Grotto or the Stadium. It exists inside everyone who is associated with this place.
I found this spirit in one of the first people I met at Notre Dame – a South Dining Hall chef named Greg Easely.
I was dropped off at Notre Dame for the NDVI program, given some dining hall coupons and told I was only allowed to eat in South (despite living in Stanford).
So, being a hungry teenager, I left my stuff in my room and went to eat. I stood in the first line I found for the Oriental stir-fry. I thought it was the most amazing thing in the world – someone was going to cook my food right in front of me.
I was greeted by a man who didn’t just ask me whether I wanted Szechwan or Sweet and Sour. He asked me my name, where I was from and why I had come to Notre Dame.
That man was Greg. From the first moment, we had a special connection. More than just saying “hello,” “thanks” and “chicken” – we became friends.
As much as I enjoyed my time at Notre Dame that summer, the program was only a week long. I returned home so full of spirit that I knew that I had to return.
Luckily, I was accepted to Notre Dame a year later and when I went to South to get my freshly minted student ID during Frosh-O, I went in search of Greg as well.
I was glad to find him where I first had – and even happier that he remembered me – after the interval of two years.
Now, two years after that, I look forward to going to South as much as I can – the kindness Greg showed to me when I was 15 is repeated every day when I shake his hand, talk to him about his family and am treated with caring by someone who has no obligation to do so, other than the dictates of his soul.
I will study in Notre Dame’s Cairo program all next year, and I wish my friends, advisors, Greg and The Observer’s staff blessings and love.
Go with God.