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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

Finding your passion

I have no idea what I want to do with my life. Sometimes, I’m able to think up a possible post-graduate plan and career, but most times I just get lost in my thoughts and end up scrapping every plan. And living in Bangladesh for two months didn’t lay out the rest of my life for me, but it certainly helped in a way that is tough to explain; but I will try my best to explain how. To begin, I was comforted by the idea of being surrounded by strangers. In a way, I could reinvent myself: No preconceived notions, just greetings that led to conversations, which lead to relationships. One of my favorite parts of the trip was forming relationships from scratch. And there was something rejuvenating in forming these friendships outside of the suffocating walls of school work, lectures and exams. My friends in Bangladesh never once asked me, “What did you get on the exam?” or “What are your plans after college?” or even “Do you have a lot of work to do today?” What is ironic about all of this is that I learned more about myself, about my academic and professional interests, in these eight weeks from my friends in Southeast Asia, than I have from my school-setting relationships over many years. Brother Chandan and I discussed a different nationwide social issue every morning before I went to teach a class of fifth graders. The Chittagong village of Diang floods nearly every day during the rainy season, and often mud slides down the cliffs to block any walking path to the school, of which nearly half of the students of Miriam Ashram take to get to class every morning. This is a very clear example of an infrastructure problem within this rural village, but it does not stop there. The Holy Cross Brothers, who are the administrators of the private school, have requested over and over again to get the mud removed and concrete roads built by the government, but excuses are made every time for why they are unable to, despite hundreds of children not being able to access their own school. Instead of helping these kids get to school, the local government sets up daytime programs in the city for political candidates, and they remove boys and girls from Miriam Ashram, without the Brothers even knowing that they were coming, and force them to attend the daylong event, where they are given neither food nor water. This is corruption at its finest, ladies and gentlemen. The Bangladeshi government wants a hold on the private school curriculum because they need to make sure children learn what they want them to learn; and because of that, the Holy Cross Brothers and Fathers, as well as many other social workers for education, face innumerable burdens to achieve nationwide justice. I saw firsthand the problems about which Brother Chandan taught me. Every night I would try to be as existential as possible, thinking up wild solutions to poverty and whatnot, just to realize that maybe my life can be simpler than I always thought it had to be. Simpler in the way that I can decide now that I want to always work for the marginalized. Whether it be through medicine or education — that can be a choice for later — but for once in two years, I felt as if a single part of my life was coming together. I have my faith grounded in God, and I know He will lead me in the right direction if I simply direct myself toward helping my brothers and sisters. Going back to the fast-paced college lifestyle seemed a little less daunting. Now, I don’t know whether a prospective International Summer Service Learning Program (ISSLP) student will read this or maybe a faculty member, but just maybe you took interest in one of the issues I presented above, then I have succeeded in my mission for writing this. I am so unbelievably passionate about the people of Bangladesh that any knowledge I can spread to the larger population is a success for me. I want to ignite a fire in another student to desire to form their own relationships with a new group of people, who have their own daily struggles. I want someone to raise their eyebrows at the bold statement that Bangladesh is corrupt and want to research and learn more about this developing country. The only way I can fail is by not sharing my personal stories, which are extensions of the people I met in villages and rural schools, with everyone I meet. To end with a most existential thought, we are all people on this earth, so why not fight for one another? Why not stand up for each other if that person is being bullied? The solution is so simple it can be compared to playground talk, but really, everyone be nice to each other.

Chris Lembo


Oct. 9


The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.