from truth to toilets

An Essay By Ben // 5/30/2003

I rested my back against a picnic table and looked out over the main beach and glassy lake. From where I sat I could see the steep bank of the dam, its grass rippling and darkening against the sky. That sky! A powerful mixture of grays, whites, and blues all day, it couldn’t make up its mind whether to rain or shine on us. But now shafts of light poured through the clouds here and there. And people came to the State park carrying rain jackets over their arms. They walked up and down on the trails; they fished; they even picnicked and swam. Most of all, they brought their beloved dogs. I watched man and dog walking across the dam, their figures dark and crisp against the clouds. And then I got up and took my turn mopping the bathroom tiles.

This is a simple description of my summer job. The work keeps me outside most of the day in a beautiful park (and this is great). However, the work itself is sometimes unappetizing (such as cleaning bathrooms and keeping the trash under control). I'm happy with it so far. I don't believe cleaning toilets well is any less honorable than studying well, in the sense that both activities are good in themselves. When I come home dirty and tired I can tell my family about the little things I encountered and feel that I did a good day’s work. For instance, my hands are shaking a little right now because I was "weed whacking" for more than an hour today. After we finished that up, we started closing up the park and saw one of the most complete rainbows arching over the lake.

My final days at Thomas More College are already sneaking out of memory, though I still think about them regularly. I still find myself reciting fragments of poetry to myself without meaning to do it. My thoughts go from I wish I knew more about fishing to Glory be to God for dappled things / For rose moles all in stipple upon trout that swim. I find myself to be quieter than the college students and adults I work with. I've spent a lot of time on my own studying recently, and maybe that has made me still more contemplative than before. But that's fine for now.

Last Sunday I went to my friend's graduation at Framingham State College and felt very much the observer. I couldn't help but compare their graduation ceremony to ours at Thomas More College, they were so different. Unlike Framingham State, Thomas More's ceremony was very much a ceremony. It began with Sunday Mass (I was one of the altar servers); it went into a long luncheon period with large families eating at tables placed outside; and, finally, it concluded with the graduation ceremony itself. Several of our professors spoke one last time to the seniors (and to all of us there) about the importance of the unusual education we receive at the school. They congratulated the seniors, but they certainly didn't act like this was the end of their race. Then, each senior was called up amid applause, one by one – all 15 of them. It was a far cry from the swarming crowds at Framingham State College, a fairly small state school itself compared to most.

Sometimes it seems like all the great events and opportunities in life are hidden away from view. Once in awhile I will feebly look around a little for that really real place or group – usually without any success. Just now I thought about getting tickets for the Jack Johnson/Ben Harper concert at the FleetBoston Pavilion, but that show was sold out long ago. Yet, when I remember the Thomas More College graduation ceremony, I did have the feeling of being part of something real at the time. And, it was such a quiet, such a small event.

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