on gratitude: featuring poetry by sandy

One of the great joys of my work is that every day is different. But amid the diversity a common theme emerges: Every day I get to help make people’s dreams come true. It’s nourishing work.

Sometimes it’s the donor who is able to honor the immigrant parents who ensured she went to college by endowing a scholarship in their memory. Or a benefactor who wishes to provide the opportunities for students that he never had growing up.

Many times it means that a young man will be able to attend college and break the cycle of poverty, or a single mom can balance her life with her studies to earn a degree, serving as a role model for her little ones.

A young man who grew up on food stamps and free lunches is able to visit South America to study abroad, soaking up the culture, history, politics, arts and language in a way that just can’t happen from reading a book. Or a woman experiences the bone-chilling concentration camps first hand, bringing history to life.

A midlife parent realizes that there is opportunity beyond the recession, as he trains for and builds a new career to support his family. A mother flees with her children and the clothes on her back to escape abuse and start anew. The life stories of so many of our students demonstrate triumph over adversity.

Perhaps my favorites are the students who are surprised — shocked really — and delighted to discover how smart they truly are. And their opportunities are limitless.

Every day is different for me but my gratitude grows through each one.

I started thinking about all this after I ran across a poem written by our college president, Sandy Shugart, that describes a different sort of life, a hopeless life.

I don’t think he’ll mind my sharing.

As you look around your own little world, what is it that makes you feel grateful today?

Brick Work

It wasn’t a work I had chosen, but
I was young and the job came to hand
like each new, rasp-edged brick
and I was taken with the
challenge of the craft.
Head-down to lay to a line
straight and square, feeling the
grain of baked earth and
handling the sanded mud with
quick, smart flicks and jabs,
a precision boxer working a square ring,
mastering tools and letting them
master me: hammer, level and trowel.
Focusing, focusing until every
cell is in the rhythm, speed,
economy of motion, each brick
leading to the next, no hesitation,
no space between the notes and
all notes the same,
brick to brick, course on course,
year stacked on
year until I take on the very
texture of brick, the grit of mortar
rigid joints and flat face of the wall
no view but the brick,
no plan but the brick,
no dream but the brick

and then

the walls, at last,
connect and there is
nothing to do but to set the
iron bars in the
tiny, high window
and wait for
the end.

(c)2003 Sanford C. Shugart


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