Backpacking is singularly one of the best team sports. I know what you’re thinking, backpacking? Yes, hiking carrying all of your food, shelter, water purifiers and poop on your back for miles on end.
Usually there’s a sweet spot — too many people it takes a century to move anywhere and too few you’re stuck carrying three times what you weight. It also requires an eclectic group of folks for better conversations and an easier journey: smaller people needed for shimmying up trees to put up tarps, larger people for carrying more weight and mishmashes of personalities to push the group’s pacing.
We hold a shared destiny that ripples throughout the world whether we know it or not. We require each other to survive. Without even one singular hiker and their backpack we go without food or shelter or water.
This week there are indeed, athletic, good-looking, (mostly single) Ramblers roaming Our Lady’s campus dressed for the beach in the middle of winter. This Wednesday, February 7th, 2024 the Ramblers of Siegfried Hall will brave the elements and host our 18th annual Day of Man.
The tradition was born one frantic morning 17 years ago, when a Siegfried resident forgot his coat on his way to class and realized how cold the winters of South Bend can really get. Fighting the world’s fight is central to the Notre Dame education in which “the aim is to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.”
Instead of just sitting around theorizing about poverty he put this thought into action and gathered a group of friends to stand out in the cold to raise money to benefit the homeless community of South Bend. Over the past 17 years, Siegfried Hall has raised over a quarter of a million dollars to benefit the South Bend Center for the Homeless.
Investing in the common good isn’t always easy. It requires us those of us able to be blessed with an experience like going to the University of Notre Dame to give some of our time, energy, money and power in order to build a more just world. A rising tide may lift all boats, but not all of us have boats to catch the ride.
With just a slight change in circumstances and my life could be on a very different trajectory. Instead of going to a school emblazoned with a literal golden dome, I could have not gone to school, I could be homeless or not even born. Whether it be drugs, mental health issues, bad decisions, unfortunate circumstances, subprime predatory lending practices or any other litany of options many aren’t able to shelter themselves and keep a roof over their heads. The department of Housing and Urban Development found in their 2023 Annual Homelessness Assesment Report that over 650,000 people experienced homelessness over the past year. In South Bend, a city of just over 100,000 people, nearly 600 individuals are currently experiencing homelessness. Hundreds more exist on the precipice of losing their own stable housing.
With temperatures at points this winter reaching far below freezing we need more enclaves like the South Bend Center for the Homeless to provide food, shelter and support for those whom have gotten lost on the trail or who we have forgotten.
Every weekend Siegfried send a dozen guys to the center to help paint, organize, move or do any other plethora of things to help out with the center. Being a force for good not only on day of man, but treating each week to give back and build a little more of God’s kingdom here on earth.
Quality of life is fundamentally a right to life issue. In the 1970s a man in his 50s born into the bottom tenth of wealth lived five years less than a man born into the top tenth of wealth. Today, those numbers are even more stark as the gap has risen to twelve years. Those born into poverty today live twelve years less than those born into wealth. Those with a college degree and those without had an eight year gap in life expectancy.
The big-short of this column is to say poverty and homelessness are problems that we can address through actions big or small. Homelessness isn’t just an issue that impacts those who are homeless but it makes each of us poorer too. If you have the time, money or any other resource we can work to create a world where there are smaller gaps of life expectancy. One way you can do that today is by donating to Siegfried Hall’s Eighteenth Annual Day of Man.
There are many ways to support the cause and the community outside our little bubble. You can donate using a credit card through this link http://tinyurl.com/dayofman2024, through Venmo (mine is LucasSherman20 fyi), or through finding any of our scantly covered Ramblers wearing bright pink T-shirts and giving them cash.
The Notre Dame Family at our best doesn’t just attempt to care for those living on our little lot of land in Indiana, rather fighting for the common good in every tiny corner of the earth.
We exist as part of larger Notre Dame story. A story that exists in the very fibers of our backpack — a legacy of poor, Irish, Catholic immigrants who weren’t welcome anywhere else. Students beating up the Ku Klux Klan in the streets of South Bend. Contesting the war in Vietnam. Eliminating sweatshop labor from ALL our products. We aren’t always perfect. We often struggle with what the best way to live out our mission is. The important part is that we can do something. That something can start with as little as five dollars or as much as devoting your whole life to passing anti-poverty legislation.
Donate to Day of Man. Pray for an end to homelessness and economic injustice. Work to build a better world. That’s how we take care of the whole hiking crew as we traverse the mountains and meadows of existence.
Dane Sherman is a junior at Notre Dame studying American Studies, peace studies, philosophy, and gender studies. Dane enjoys good company, good books, good food and talking about faith in public life. Outside of The Observer, Dane can be found exploring Erasmus books with friends, researching philosophy, with folks from Prism, reading NYTs op-eds from David Brooks/Ezra Klein/Michelle Goldberg or at the Purple Porch getting some food. Dane ALWAYS wants to chat and can be reached at @danesherm on twitter or email@example.com.