For break, stay off the sofa

By Ben Moriarty

I did a lot this break. I fed the homeless on Christmas, sharing with them my Christmas spirit. I also volunteered in the inner city, teaching young kids how to multiply numbers together because it’s fun to multiply numbers together, and they’re going to need to know how to do that to pass their MCAS tests. Finally, I went up to Canada to stop people from shooting wolves from helicopters.

And then I realized that I actually had not done any of those things; but rather, I spent my vacation watching countless episodes of House, playing video games with my friends, and then trying to convince myself that people on Xbox Live were actually my friends.

To be honest, I feel kind of bad about it. I feel like I wasted several weeks of my life, and I’m quite sure I did, unless sometime in my life I am able to help diagnose someone with Wilson’s disease by noticing Kayser-Fleischer rings around their irises ‘- or something else I learned from House. In fact, I have nothing to show for my entire vacation. If, on the contrary, I had actually done something, I could have helped someone, and I could have had something to show.

During winter break, while you all were sleeping and not even thinking about the University (unless you’re one of those kids), UMass was honored by the independent Carnegie Foundation for being a Community-Engaged University. This award is not only given for community service projects in the University’s curriculum through classes, but also regarding other areas of involvement in the community, like the low-priced psychological services center at UMass and the Hull Wind Project ‘- which helps utilize clean energy wind resources for the community.

Being given this award allows all who attend and have attended UMass to have a sense of pride for this achievement. But by taking this in and not reflecting on what more we could possibly do, we would be ungrateful jerks, at best.

While finishing up our vacation, most of us watched Barack Obama be sworn in as president. Most of us here at this liberal university also deeply supported him because it is believed he will bring a positive change to this country. The only problem is if you think he can make this change by himself, you are sadly mistaken, or sadly naive.

The good thing is, he knows how to. For instance, President Obama has sworn to expand AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps, as well as coming up with the Opportunity Tax Credit, which will allow college to be more affordable in exchange for community service. Obama, like the great John Fitzgerald Kennedy, has realized that community service, and service to your fellow human being, is vitally important. And for us, it is vitally important for change and for the greater good.

Here at this university, we have been given a wonderful chance to succeed in our careers and future because of our education. But more than that, we have been given the wonderful opportunity to engage ourselves in the community, to help those who need it, and to be active participants in change.

As students, it is not that hard to find time to escape from the work and studying of school to participate in a variety of activities like intramurals, getting drunk and, thanks to the liberals of Massachusetts, smoking marijuana without any real repercussions. But it is time, as citizens and voters who were so apt to get rid of George W. Bush and to change our country, to actually change.

A few hours of volunteering in the community when you are able to instead of watching television not only goes a long way for others, but it might actually make yourself believe you want the country to change for the better, and that you actually do care about the people and things that need help.

Anyone can say they want a change in their country. But if you aren’t going to help out, then you’re as good as a burned bush. I’m just glad I didn’t vote for the candidate of change and voted for Nader. I hope to see you suckers planting some trees around town.

Ben Moriarty is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]