By Jabriel Hasan
Mr. Hasan interned with the Boys & Girls Club of Chester (PA) the summer of 2014. He studied Communication and Social Entrepreneurship at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia, and graduated in 2015. He currently serves in the Peace Corps as an English teacher in the Amhara region of Ethiopia.
I had started school studying Fashion Merchandising, but I had also kept a strong desire to serve the well-being of the world. However, up until that morning, I hadn’t done much volunteer service in college. After completing homework and extracurricular activities, I kept an active social calendar. Since Missionaries of Charity volunteer service was always on a Saturday at 6:30am, with morning mass preceding breakfast and the day’s work of wiping down beds, it was definitely a sacrifice for a sociable college student. Yet, making that small sacrifice changed my life’s path and led me to the work I’m doing now. I saw women who had given their whole lives to service. The nuns had chosen to marry Christ and to see him in the people who the world so often abandons: the old, the sick, and people living in poverty. That morning, my heart changed.
On Monday, I switched my Major/Minor from Communication and Fashion Merchandising to Communication and Social Entrepreneurship. Instead of partnering Fashion Merchandising with Communication in hopes of working in Fashion Communication, my hope with Social Entrepreneurship was to focus fully on philanthropic work, which I had found to be my greatest fulfillment. I recently heard someone say, “God will resource God’s will.” A change, which some students would need to add a semester or two to complete, fit perfectly into my plan to complete my bachelor’s degree in four years. What had started as a small volunteer service experience became a foundation for my future.
I now serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in a rural town in Ethiopia. I teach ninth grade English every weekday to one hundred students, but frequent power outages and limited social activity opportunities give me much time to think about life. What I’ve realized is that purpose of human life, particularly as a Christian, is to embrace the world with radical empathy. In other words, the purpose of life is to love. Every person is called to love the world and all within it so deeply that he or she comes to glimpse it through the eyes of its Creator. When the world truly lives in this vision, we will become a global village. Persons could never dismiss the oppression of another, because they would see that another’s oppression is also their own. We would see the world, not as nations and borders, but as divine, diverse creation. In retrospect, I see that this was the purpose of my education at Marymount University.
The motto of The Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, Marymount’s founding sisterhood, is: “That all may have life.” The root of life is love, and the root of love is compassion and empathy. The Sacred Heart of Mary leads us into love. Mary’s love, the maternal love, is a special type. Motherly love is all-embracing. It requires patience, endurance, grace, and mercy. It amazes me that a woman can spend hours in labor pushing a baby out of her womb, losing a sea of blood and water in the process—and still love the helpless mass that emerges. Many women would even commit to this process numerous times out of their love for bringing life into the world. Seeing the baby’s vulnerability, they have mercy on it. Without even thinking of it as forgiveness, they forgive their cries and screams and all the sleepless nights of nursing and soothing it. Even when the father may choose to abandon the child, mothers typically remain steadfastly committed to the lives depending on them for sustenance. I believe that motherly love is empathy in its essential form. I also think each person, both men and women, have the ability to find this type of love within themselves. For mothers, it is innate. For the rest of us, it requires learning about the world and being with the world in all of its pain and beauty. At the university level, students are given the opportunity and have the mental capacity to engage the world with this depth of empathy.
For me, Missionaries of Charity was a profound beginning. It was the sword that struck my heart. From there, I learned about social justice, addressing social injustice, and international business practices. I took a trip to Estonia with my Entrepreneurship class to see small business in action. I became more familiar with conditions in developing nations on a missionary trip to the Dominican Republic, and I interned with Samaritan Ministry of Greater Washington to help homeless people in the D.C. area. I learned more about the world. The more I learned and experienced, the more I came to see it through the eyes of its Creator and to have compassion and understanding for the diversity of experiences within creation.
Through my time with the Shepherd Consortium serving at the Boys & Girls Club in Chester, PA, I grew in love and patience working with small children, but I also personally saw and experienced how historic, systematic patterns of injustice thwart the opportunity to live life fully for countless members of the human family. Much of poverty is rooted in historical racial and class biases. Poverty is cyclical in nature. Generations upon generations become acculturated into poverty. People adapt to ways of surviving amidst a lack of resources and the pervasive violence stemming from a lack of resources. This adaptation becomes habitual and many people, both those living within and outside of these circumstances, come to accept the reality of these conditions.
Nevertheless, through education, positive examples, and other forms of assistance (like the Boys & Girls Club), people may change their own circumstances. Yet, the call to radical empathy compels those living outside of poverty to address the injustices and prejudices inherent in our social institutions so that we can all live fully.
I credit Marymount with nurturing the spirit of the sacred heart within me. Ultimately, it is this spirit that has led me and continues to lead me through a life of service.