Opinions, Column, Featured Column

The Lessons We Take With Us When We Leave BC

You never know who is going to brighten your day. Midterms are upon us, and for those of you who treat September like you’re playing with house money, it can be a real shock when the calendar changes and those tests start approaching. As I was gearing up to burn the midnight oil in Fulton—Monster in hand, chastising myself for all the times I thought that I really should do some work but just played FIFA instead—I ran into a Boston College facilities employee in the elevator.

“So, you’re in CSOM?” he asked. “No, I just pretend to be,” I responded. “Well, let me tell you a little bit about this place.”

He then proceeded to tell me how he had worked at BC for 20 years and how his daughter had graduated from CSOM a few years ago. She had been very happily employed since graduation and was on track to do very well, although many of her friends from high school who attended other colleges had struggled to find jobs. One of her best friends had recently been laid off and was very upset. His daughter decided to reach out to her boss, also a BC graduate, to see if there were any openings at the company. The boss promptly set up a lunch with the recently unemployed friend, and by the time the main course was finished, this friend was asked when she wanted to start. The facilities employee’s theory was simply that his daughter’s boss trusted her opinion enough to hire someone for whom she vouched without a formal interview.

He then added that there was a time when he had decided to leave BC for a while to pursue other opportunities. When he decided that he wanted to come back, he was unsure how things would work out, but he was immediately welcomed back with open arms. “This place will take care of you,” he said before leaving the elevator, and before I could get his name.

So many organizations develop guiding principles that they claim define who they are. A quick Google search reveals that Enron’s corporate values were respect, integrity, communication, and excellence. An organization’s principles are rarely reflected in its day-to-day dealings, especially in organizations that are designed to make a profit, like corporations, or institutions that exist in a very competitive environment, such as elite academic institutions.

We are told to be “men and women for others” and to “go set the world aflame” at orientation and convocation. Instead of just saying these words, I think that the BC community actually embraces them. Hearing stories like the one I heard in the elevator, or learning in class last week that, in 2008, BC was the only college in the Boston area not to lay anyone off, always makes me proud to say I’m a BC student.

We all know that 4Boston has so many applicants that it has to reject people, and we have all heard about how Appa has changed someone’s life for the better. What is really different about BC as an institution is not what happens while we are here—it is that the constant barrage of Jesuit terms and service trips actually does seem to mold students for the better permanently. Long after they leave campus, Eagles are still men and women for others.

The network of well-molded Eagles out there does all of the things that one would imagine when thinking of how to set the world aflame. Last year, alumni showed up in overwhelming droves when BC organized charity functions for its sesquicentennial celebrations, and many graduates work in non-profit organizations designed to fight injustice and make the world a better place.

Truly being a man or woman for others goes beyond the macro, however. BC graduates will remind you that they were shaped by this institution in the little moments in life. While joining the Peace Corps is admirable, most of us will end up spending the majority of our time working for a company that exists to make profits. There are all kinds of arguments among economists and ethicists about whether a corporation should have a social agenda, but there are chances in the course of normal business activities to display your BC education. The facilities employee’s daughter’s boss is probably a very busy man who took time out of his day to change someone’s life, based purely on the amount of trust that he has in his employees. When sticky notes and spreadsheets are piling up, a true Eagle will make personal sacrifices to help a stranger out, simply because we have been taught to recognize that this is the right thing to do. You can set the world aflame by going against the system—a system of pressures that leads most people to believe that they need to focus entirely on themselves just to accomplish everything they need to in a day. A small act of kindness can change someone’s life so meaningfully that he or she can’t contain his or her desire to stop complete strangers and tell them about it.

There are so many great schools out there, but BC really is different. This place will take care of you, and more importantly, this place will mold you to take care of others.

Featured Image by Alex Trautwig / Heights Senior Staff

November 2, 2014