It was difficult not to see the starkness of comparison last Friday. As I prepared to arrive at school on the morning we would celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a look at my weather app offered a bone-chilling 6-degree forecast. Alas, that required quick thinking by assembly coordinators Pati Fernández and members of the faculty DEI committee to move the event from an in-person gathering in the Barn to a Zoom assembly. That speedy pivot allowed us to stay warm in our classrooms while participating in the morning dedicated to celebrating Dr. King’s life of service.
The assembly’s keynote speaker, Pine Street Inn volunteer coordinator Matt Ferrer, spoke of the organization’s mission to end homelessness. This is our third year working in partnership with Pine Street Inn, and each year has involved a drive to raise resources. This year, we’re collecting hats, gloves, and Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards that the street outreach team will distribute to individuals who likely cannot pivot out of the cold to a warm indoor space at the drop of a winter hat the way we did.
The juxtaposition of the moment was a striking one, and it has stayed with me throughout the week as temperatures remained below freezing and as we brace for the two feet of snow forecast to fall this weekend. I am also thinking about conversations with faculty about the merit of donation drives in the context of our commitment to engaged and active service learning.
Our outreach to communities beyond our campus offers both/and moments. We are both generous in our donations of material support and dedicated to creating opportunities for students to experience the connection between acts of giving and their purpose. The filling bins outside of the Schoolhouse and Barn this week provide a clear picture of the generosity of our community and commitment to help the team at Pine Street Inn make progress on achieving its mission. At the same time, your donations offer some warmth and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.
I began the assembly with a favorite King quote: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?'” At Belmont Day, we consider these critical questions: Is our interconnectedness with those we serve visible to our students? Do we see how their warmth is our warmth, their shelter is our shelter?Interdependence is at the heart of our work with Pine Street Inn and the many other organizations we support.
Service done in the name of Dr. King and not revisited until the next time we celebrate the icon’s birthday seems to just ‘check a box’ for a year. Whether it takes the form of collections of essential items or hands-on experiences, our students and faculty engage in service throughout the year, not because we are separate from those in need but because of our shared humanity and certainly never to check a box. Here at Belmont Day, the work is part of our fabric and our missionthe empowerment of meaningful contribution with our six core values in action that lives in all we do.
Have a safe and joyful weekend, everyone.