Commentary

Nonstop Non Sibi

Currently, Non Sibi Day is the extent of “non sibi” on campus, instead of a beginning of a prolonged effort. We prove our commitment to our motto “non sibi” through Non Sibi Day, but that day needs to be representative of a much larger effort by our community.

Working with community organizations that need our help is great, but the ideals of “non sibi” cannot be confined to a few hours of one day of the year. To me “non sibi” is moving beyond gesturing and actually acting. It’s an incredible idea that needs to become much more firmly ingrained, not just in our school crest but in our daily lives and our vision of what the world and our school should be.

The first step in achieving this is holding Non Sibi Day during the week so that everyone can participate. Although I participated in a project this year, I wasn’t supposed to. I was among the people who were excused so that they could take the SATs, go to a game or take care of some other activity. Judging by the bleary crowds in Morse and the Smith Center on Saturday morning, there were quite a lot of us.

Classes are suspended on Martin Luther King Day in recognition of the importance of justice and multiculturalism and in the interest of full participation. The same should be done on Non Sibi Day to signal that every student need to place emphasis on thoughts about how to aid others.

Giving us the day off would also allow the projects we undertake to be placed in context. We need to be discussing the factors that create the need for our projects, how to effectively serve communities and the logistics of involving community members and running effective organizations. We need to understand what real “need” is and what it means to be hungry, low-income or homeless or to experience the many other kinds of suffering that are all too prevalent. We can’t process what “non sibi” means and what our actions on Non Sibi Day mean for a few hours on the weekend without this crucial knowledge.

Extending the lessons of Non Sibi Day, Andover should further solidify its commitment to service by requiring every student to complete one term of community service or a comparable independent project.

We can’t just be tourists to these issues for one day a year. We need to make the commitment to addressing the issues faced by the communities we meet on Non Sibi Day. And we need the time to meet those communities as people, not just recipients.

Of course there is the question of logistics, but the community service office already does a fantastic job of offering projects of all types that meet at all times, offerings that I’m sure they’ll be able to expand as the volunteer pool grows.

There is also concern about whether forced service is ethical or effective. But few students do community service purely out of the goodness of their hearts. We do it because we love the causes and people we work with and the impact we have, but we also do it so that we can put it on college applications.

Conversely, students’ lack of interest in helping others isn’t what pushes to avoid community service. They decline because they don’t have enough time, because they care but care about other activities more, because they never noticed that sign-ups were happening or because of any number of immediate concerns that crowd out thinking about the community service office.

If service is required, students will have to find time, but they’ll gain an understanding of the world and the impact people can have on it that a sixth course can’t offer. It’s time for us as an institution to magnify our commitment to service. And it may not always be easy, and it may not always be fun, but it’s necessary.

Abigail Burman is a two-year Senior from Silver Spring, MD.