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Opinion

AM I SECURE ENOUGH TO SAY THANK YOU?

Respond to this column by Justin Kopp at, jckopp21@wabash.edu

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Justin Kopp ’21

On October 9th, the Professional Development team welcomed  Dr. Larry Stevens, the Medical Director of Perioperative Services at IU Health to campus. Dr. Stevens discussed several ways to cope with stress that he developed through his coping course. One line that has stuck with me since the talk: “gratitude does not come from happiness, happiness comes from gratitude.” The next day, I was challenged by one of my fraternity brothers to think about the question, “what if you woke up tomorrow and all you had was what you thanked God for yesterday?” After feeling stressed out and a bit down in the dumps the weeks leading up to Dr. Stevens’ talk, from my relentless, busy routine, I realized that I was not being grateful enough for everything that I have. I realized being grateful is much more than saying thank you, and to achieve happiness through gratefulness, one must dwell on the many opportunities they have to be grateful. The things I was stressing about were the same things I was praying to be a part of in the past.

 

I must mention the mental health talks that took place on campus this past week. The courageous and inspiring accounts given by Max Lawson ‘19, Jared Timberman ‘21, and Keith Owen ‘20 made us laugh, cry, and think. The goal of these talks was to normalize the discussion of mental health on campus, which is a very important aspect of achieving a larger amount of gratitude on campus. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, in order to achieve the psychological needs such as gratitude and love, one must first have the basic needs such as safety and security. By normalizing talks of mental health, students can feel safe discussing such a difficult topic, as well as other topics such as love and gratitude.

Keith Owen ended his speech by stating that we don’t say I love you enough. Keith said, “as Wabash men, we do a lot of things because we love our brothers, but we don’t always say I love you when we do those things”. It’s hard to understand why those things are so difficult to say three simple words , but the same principle goes towards gratitude. While we may be very grateful for the many things Wabash has brought to our life,

for some reason it’s hard to tell another Wabash brother, alumnus, professor, or faculty member that we are grateful for them. It’s hard for us to tell our roommate we appreciate their living with us and putting up with our smelly socks daily (which my roommate does an exceptional job of, thank you Clark.) It’s hard to tell a professor, thank you for spending so much time grading my essay and giving me meaningful feedback and be grateful even when we didn’t receive the grade we wanted or thought we deserved. It’s hard for us be grateful to the alumnus that buys us a meal and some snacks to take home.

I have three challenges for whomever reads this piece. First: take some time daily and think about all the things you have to be grateful for; one of my teammates does this by setting a daily reminder on his phone and blocking off 10-20 minutes just to think. Second: tell someone you appreciate them. Not in a nonchalant “I appreciate you” after one of your brothers brings you an extra piece of chicken at dinner, but a meaningful expression of gratefulness towards someone else. Write the professor you admire a email, or better yet a handwritten note thanking them for all their hard work. Tell your roommate before you go to bed “hey man, I love you and I appreciate your living with me, and I promise I’ll wash my socks tomorrow.” Tell your teammates that you don’t know what you’d do without them (I certainly don’t). Call or text your parents or loved ones and let them know you love them, miss them, and are grateful for all the support they’ve given you. Or, the best option of all, do all of the above.

This will make the receiver’s day (if not month), which in turn will make you happy. Third: make an attempt to be grateful for everything that happens to you over the next week. If you receive a bad grade on an important test, be grateful you made that mistake now, rather than later and can truly learn from that mistake. If you walk back from the library at 2 AM with a three-page paper left to finish, be grateful that you go to a college that stretches you to your limits. If we can take every negative and spin it somehow as a positive and be grateful for it, then there is no possible way that negativity can hurt our lives.

Reflections from a History Major

Respond to this column by Walker Hedgepath, at wlhedgep19@wabash.edu

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Walker Hedgepath ’19

What is history? A collection of facts? A bunch of dusty old books? Stories from days gone by? My experiences as a Wabash history major have taught me that, although books will always be important, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

When I was in high school, I discovered that history was my passion. I took an
AP US History course that really seemed to “bring history to life,” and I loved the way in which my teacher would take our seemingly dry textbook and layer it with
so many additional stories hidden behind the names and dates of chronology. From these foundations, I entered Wabash with the fairly “normal” (yet still important!) expectation of being a history major on track to becoming a lawyer. I had heard during Freshman Orientation that most Wabash men graduate with totally different plans from the ones they entered with, but I was skeptical that I would be one of them.

My experiences as a Wabash man and history major have shattered all of these expectations. Thanks to having several Cambodian and Vietnamese international students as neighbors my freshman year in College Hall, I took up an interest in learning more about Southeast Asia. Having only learned American and world history in K-12 public schools, I still knew nothing about this particular part of the world and saw a chance to try something new. I did some quick research on Wabash’s history faculty, and I initially turned up disappointed. I saw American history, Latin American history, European military history…but no Southeast Asia, or any steady East Asian course offerings for that matter. I chalked it up to Wabash’s small size and thought I would just have to settle for something else instead.

 

Then, in my sophomore year at the College, Dr. Sundar Vadlamudi came to Wabash as a one-year visiting professor. He offered an interesting-sounding course on the history of the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughals of India, and since this was another part of the world I knew nothing about, I thought “Why not?” At the conclusion of the course, we had to write a pretty standard research paper. Since I was still interested in Southeast Asia, I asked Dr. Vadlamudi if I could write about Cambodia instead of India. He told me that I absolutely could (so long as it connected to a class concept), and from this point onward I changed my whole view of the History Department. Although the professors have specific topic areas and specializations, this should by no means be interpreted as a restriction on what you can learn. With Dr. Vadlamudi’s support, I started studying Southeast Asian history independently – “that guy” carrying a bag of books around the library every week.

The best was yet to come. In my junior year, I signed up for an immersion trip with Dr. Sabrina Thomas and Dr. Richard Warner to Vietnam on the memories and

legacy of the Vietnam War. This course completely transformed my concept of history. Before, and even into the start of my junior year, my primary interactions with history had always been through books. Our 10 days in Vietnam made clear that history was not just stuff we write in books; it is first and foremost a story of people and how people remember the past. We read lots of literature in class about the American and Vietnamese perspective of the war, but when you visit an orphanage for the victims of Agent Orange in Saigon, suddenly everything looked totally different. When we met American veterans that had seen combat in the mountains of Central Vietnam, everything looked different. Everything looked different because I had finally realized that history is a reflection of the human condition. It’s who we are.

Now, as a senior history major, my goal is to become an English teacher in Cambodia. History for me has gone from just a hobby to my way of connecting my experiences with others in hopes of creating a new common good. What can being a history major do for you?