Georgetown University is excited to host the National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference: Set the World on Fire (NJSLC) July 19 to 23. Leading up to this year’s conference, the Office of Campus Ministry will be sharing reflections from students who attended the NJSLC last year.
In this, the inaugural post of the series, Aaron Bennett, C’19 writes about a “paradigm-shifting revelation.”
In the daily hustle and bustle of student life, it’s easy to miss the blue banners hung around Georgetown’s campus.
I’ll be the first to admit it: my freshman year, I rarely gave those phrases—Men and Women for Others, Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, among others—a second glance. Considering the concept of cura personalis took up more mental energy than I could spare; it seemed too vague to actually be able to implement and too complex to actually live by. In such an academically rigorous and involvement-heavy campus culture, I found myself too rushed, too busy and too ambitious.
The 2016 National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference changed all that.
One of the biggest takeaways from the conference, in my mind, is the paradigm-shifting revelation on what it means to live in service to others. A popular perception of service is a large, overt, organized endeavor—projects that are often judged by how many hours were logged or number of people who benefitted. While these are certainly noble and consistent with the Jesuit ideals, discussions at NJSLC turned this notion on its head, revealing to me that we can do good in the world by instead putting people first.
In my mind, this is the most important element of service. Adopting this philosophy allows you to see the impact of your actions on a personal basis and truly improve someone’s life. Taking the time to engage others in dialogue about issues important to them, listen to the stories that define them, or simply just smile and make small talk with a stranger is truly serving others every day and having a powerful impact. The world is one big community—strengthened by our differences and united in humanity—and, as a leader, the more we can do to bring people together every day, the closer toward peace we strive.
For example, I have committed myself to slowing down life on the Hilltop, and setting goals to work towards this new lifestyle. I planned on engaging with someone new every day—and doing it with a smile on my face. Over the course of the conference, I discovered that I wanted to be the kind of person that brings fresh, positive energy into every space I enter. Emphasizing these micro-scale acts of kindness and peace allows me to be of service to anyone at any time and in any way. That, to me, is leadership, and with this attitude and optimism, I truly believe I can take the first concrete step in fighting for a more peaceful world.
With a reinvigorated comprehension of what it means to be leader in the Jesuit tradition, I was excited to return to campus and share this new perspective through conversations and action. I now understand that Jesuit principles are more than just words on a banner; they are a way of living a life dedicated to service for others. Although the world seems to be descending further into chaos with each passing day, NJSLC inspired me to raise my voice and be an agent for peace, one interaction at a time.
Written by Aaron Bennett, C’19.