During the 2017 Commencement Week, Classics major Stephanie Neville ’17 read the following reflection to classmates at the senior luncheon. Stephanie, who is from Grand Island, NY, began the study of Latin and Greek at Holy Cross and was a four-year member of the Manuscripts, Inscriptions, and Documents Club. This summer Stephanie will continue her internship at Dovetail Internet Technologies in Worcester, and in the fall she will begin as a law student at the George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, VA.
Beginning on move-in day at Holy Cross, we were encouraged to Live the Mission. We were told to be men and women for others. And as first year students we nodded and went along with it because I do not think that any of us truly understood what those phrases meant at the time. For each of us, however, as we spent our days trekking between buildings on Mt. St. James, we came to understand the significance of those words in a different way, and we came to see how we could apply these terms to our everyday lives.
In my own experience, I came to understand these words in my attempt to create a college bucket list, as I imagine many of us attempted at one point or another. Early on during my Holy Cross career, I jotted down a list of 25 tasks, some more generic than others, that I hoped to complete before I graduated. I then saved my list so I could return to it and mark off those experiences as necessary. Spoiler alert, I never completed all of the tasks on that list.
Not long after I made this list, I felt that something was just not quite right about it. While studying outside in the Hoval and finding the fourth floor of the science building, as a humanities major, were interesting experiences, these did not seem to mean as much to me as the small yet meaningful moments that I increasingly experienced as I met more people on the Hill. So, as a typical Holy Cross student would, since my first list just did not live up to my expectations of what I had hoped it would be, I did the only logical thing: I made a second list. Although this list was a little different from my first, it was something my roommate and I referred to as a nectar list. Whenever I had a new and often unanticipated experience in my life that I felt had meaning to me, I wrote it down in a list. Pretty soon, I had recorded over two hundred moments that I might have otherwise forgotten, like that time the RA knocked on my door on a school night because my roommate and I sang along to Les Mis a little too enthusiastically or the first time one of my professors invited me to office hours just to talk with me about how I was enjoying my classes so far.
Stephanie (second from left) with classmates Drew Virtue, Melody Wauke, and Charlie Schufreider during Commencement festivities.
Looking back at the moments I included on my nectar list, it is clear that the experiences that seemed to mean the most were the everyday and even mundane moments that I had the pleasure of sharing with all kinds of people that I was able to meet. We can all think of people who helped to make our college experience meaningful for us, of the passerby who became a mentor, of strangers who became family. Years from now, when we look back at our time in college, of course we are going to remember those monumental experiences we had, such as when we boarded a plane to study abroad or when we formally declared our major. But when we reflect on what this time actually meant to us and how it shaped the people we are today, we are going to think of the fleeting moments we shared with people who have come to mean the world to us. We are going to think of scouting out tables in Dinand, of asking a friend to swipe us into a dorm when we lost our ID, of waiting in line on chicken parm night at Kimball.
And when we look back at those small moments, those will be the moments that we can look back upon to see how much we’ve grown. When I look back at my list, I am able to see a progression of a timid freshman who fell on the Fenwick stairs on to a more seasoned and a much more comfortable Holy Cross student who tried my hand at cooking in the apartments and who ventured to explore the area around Holy Cross like the Worcester Art Museum, the Blackstone movie theater with discount movie Tuesdays, and other areas of New England that I had never visited.
By choosing to embrace our identity as Holy Cross students, we have already begun to Live the Mission. By immersing ourselves in this incredible community in whatever ways we have found ourselves called, we have played a role both in shaping each other’s experiences and in growing as individuals. Even the smallest moments we have shared with friends or acquaintances on campus or in the Worcester community can have an impact, as we never can fully comprehend how our words or gestures can take effect. Even a passing smile or an open door can make all the difference to someone. At Holy Cross, we have learned how to be open to sharing those moments with those we have been blessed to have around us. As a class, we have served as orientation leaders, served as club leaders, congratulated our classmates who have won Fulbrights or secured jobs, and proofread essays for our peers. In whatever way the opportunity has presented itself, we have learned to support each other, and we have learned how to extend those gestures of support to those beyond the Holy Cross community. Many of us have participated in international or domestic service trips, have served as big brothers and sisters, and have led fundraisers.
I think it’s fair to say that we’ve put in a lot of hard work into our education, our relationships, and our growth as men and women for others. But this is only one milestone in our journey. As we move forward to the next phase of our lives, we must continue to embrace the small moments in life and recognize the beauty in sharing these with the people around us. With this mindset, we can be open to new experiences and to reaching out to new people. With this mindset, we can continue to expand our own definitions of what it means to Live the Mission and to be men and women for others. What are the small moments that you have experienced at Holy Cross that have shaped who you are today and who you want to be?