A Different Kind of Education

Abigail Clavin - Ecuador


April 11, 2014

“What you hold on to you lose. What you give away you can never run out of…. You never fully grasp the fruits of your education until you give it away to another.” –Father Michael Himes

A year and a half ago I sat at Fenway Park with my family and 20,000 other students, alumni and friends of Boston College. We were there to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the school’s founding through a mass held at the famous Fenway Park in Boston. In addition to the services a few people spoke about the school and the Jesuit education, but what struck me most was the homily given by Father Michael Himes. He first addressed how we should all just try to be truly human and that will bring us closer to holiness. He then spoke about the value of a Jesuit education and that education means humanization, which ultimately makes us more holy. I had applied to almost all Jesuit universities because of their values in education and service (and a couple of nudges from my parents). But Father Himes helped me see my own education in a new way.

He spoke about how lucky we are or may one day be to receive an education, and especially a Jesuit education where they believe in educating the whole person with an emphasis on service. And with those opportunities we have a responsibility to give that education away. It is not given to us so we may become more rich and successful, but indeed to share it. Once I heard this I stepped back to evaluate myself. I knew I had received an amazing education so far, being only 18 years old. I also knew at the time I wanted to take a bridge year and thought to myself: perfect Abbie. You’re going to give it away! You are already on your road to happiness and success. As I listened to the rest of the mass and for some time after I thought pretty highly of myself. I was about to finish my senior year and then spend a whole year giving myself to others. What better way to give away my own education and share my knowledge?

Between then and now I have not thought much about that homily. I continued on with my senior year and engaged in all the excitements of graduation and starting on a new journey- my bridge year in Ecuador. A few days ago I happened to stumble upon the video of this exact homily through searching for a video to show my team leader. I sat and listened to it again, and then again. At first I felt so happy to hear it once more and was proud of myself for all I am doing. But as I thought about it more and more, my thoughts changed. Yes, I am “giving” my time at my various jobs where I am a volunteer. And yes, I am sharing what I have learned in school with various people. But more than that, I indeed am the one who is learning.

My host parents never went to high school. But that doesn’t mean they don’t share their education with me. They learned from grandparents, neighbors and experience that the most important thing in life is to take care of each other and do what makes you happy. They teach me this through sharing stories and long talks at dinner about how short life is and taking advantage of each day.

My host mom shares her pride of how she got to where she is today. Of selling food with her brothers for money and not having a house. Of working nights and days just to have food to eat. Of bringing rocks from the closest river to make cement for our house. And now of being a self-employed seamstress, an employee at a successful credit union that she helped start, and on the board of every organization in our community.

My siblings are younger than me, yet they remind me that you need to have fun and it’s okay to make mistakes.

My grandmother was educated only until 3rd grade yet she shows me how essential it is to share all we have and my grandfather teaches me the importance a good hug.

I am to begin my next journey in college – to learn and have a better understanding of how I can share my education with others. I bring with me my the greatest lesson I have learned yet – that education does not just come from a $60,000-a-year prestigious university – but that education comes from everywhere; you just have to get out there to find it.

Abigail Clavin