Break the glass
Kyle Palmer | Thursday, October 29, 2015
After Wednesday’s GOP presidential primary debate, I wrote my regular Friday column with a predictable analysis of the debate. By yesterday morning, it was polished and ready to send off (The Observer asks I submit my columns by 5 p.m. the day before publishing). However, something else happened that made me scrap the entire column and start over.
I sat down for lunch yesterday shortly after 1 p.m., prepared to study for a quiz in my 2 p.m. class that I hadn’t studied for whatsoever. Adding to the concerns over the quiz was the discontent I had for the dining hall at the time due to the removal of the almighty dining tray in an effort to conserve water one day out of the year. Upon sitting down, shedding my jacket and grabbing a napkin, I looked up and saw a freshman sitting in the middle of a table alone, obviously emotionally unsettled, choking back tears and not expecting anyone to join her. I noticed others saw the freshman as well, but no one stood to do anything about it. I debated whether I should do anything at all. After all, I only had an hour before my quiz for which I was unprepared, and I certainly wasn’t the right person to comfort the young student, but I eventually stood and did something about it anyway.
I walked over to the freshman, asked if she wanted to sit with anyone and invited her to join me. After sitting down together, I introduced myself and asked what had been bothering her and to tell me a bit about herself. That’s when I learned she was a freshman who had had a particularly rough week. Classes had come back with a vengeance after fall break, and she didn’t feel at home in the friend group she had formed since August. She felt totally alone and just needed to release some tears. I had forgotten how stressful life might be as a freshman. Over the last three-and-a-half-years, I had come to call this place home with supportive friends and faculty. I asked when she had last called home, and she told me she had done so that morning. The student missed her mom and couldn’t wait to go home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I hadn’t realized how lucky I was to never be homesick over these last few years. That isn’t to say I don’t love going home and spending time with my family, but I found a home in those around me at Notre Dame, and I was normally too busy to think about going home. After our brief conversation, the freshman’s tears had subsided and a smile appeared, and she headed off to prepare for a project.
The last thing I want is for this column to be perceived as some sort of pat-on-the-back for helping out a fellow student in need. If anything, it should bring condemnation for me rather than commendation; it should bring criticism because I hesitated to do anything at all at first. There I was, so concerned with a quiz that I nearly missed out on fulfilling what, I believe, was and is a moral obligation. How often do we nearly miss out on the things that matter, such as helping and uplifting one another? How often do we fail to consider the plight of others because we have something in front of us that requires immediate attention?
I encourage anyone reading this to be mindful of those around you and react when your help is needed. Never mind the inconveniences or the concern that you aren’t prepared to handle the situation of a stranger — you are prepared enough. If you’re on the other end of this situation and you’re going through hard times, don’t worry about inconveniencing another; just seek out a friend who is willing to listen. Sometimes life can feel as if you are looking at others through a window or a television screen, their lives unaffected by yours and yours unaffected by theirs. Regardless of the side of glass you feel you’re on at the time, looking out or looking in, my chief suggestion is this: Don’t hesitate to break the glass. Don’t hesitate for even a moment as I did.
Now, as I write this column quickly to make my 5 p.m. Thursday deadline, immediately after taking that quiz, which I likely would have done better on had I chosen to study for that extra period of time, I only regret I didn’t react faster for that freshman and that I didn’t provide an email address for an open medium for the venting of stress. If she is reading this, or anyone who just wants to vent in the confidence of a fellow student you don’t actually know, my email address is below. Send me a message. I guarantee I won’t hesitate this time.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.