Stories

10 Reasons Dayton Deserves This Day

My alma mater—the University of Dayton—is in the Sweet Sixteen tonight, in case you haven’t heard. I may not be a huge basketball fan, but I am a UD fan, so I’m just as excited. The Flyers deserve to be in the national spotlight. There are lots of list out there about who we are and why we should win, but I wanted to offer my own. Here are ten more reasons from an alum perspective. (Hint: it’s much more than the Ghetto on Saturday night!)

  1. Marianists are among the greatest people you’ll ever meet.

UD is a Catholic, Marianist school with a real commitment to community and kindness. Our campus is full of priests, brothers, and sisters who embody that commitment every minute of every day. It’s intensely wonderful.

  1. The city of Dayton loves the University of Dayton.

Since the school housed hundreds and fed thousands of city residents stranded by the flood of 1913, UD has made every effort to help improve the city and have a positive impact on the community. They purchase and improve vacant buildings, support the city’s natural resources, and create jobs.

  1. Christmas on Campus is a beautiful thing.

Each year on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, classes are cancelled and campus is abuzz for Christmas on Campus. It’s a chance for students to celebrate Christmas together before they go home for break—and do some great work for the community. Dayton-area kids come to campus to be hosted by students, given Christmas gifts, and treated like little royalty. It’s a ball.

  1. Academics are a top priority.

Let’s face it: college, at its heart, is about a good education that will launch careers, not bouncing a ball around. UD’s athletes are held to high academic standards, and boast a national top 20 standing for graduation success rates.

  1. Service is a core part of the university mission.

Whether it’s a spring break service trip to build houses in a low-income neighborhood, a summer trip to set up clean water for remote African villages or volunteer in Appalachia, or a weekend spent working in the inner city, UD is all about service in action and immersive education that will broaden students’ worldview.

  1. UD’s financial aid program is generous and (relatively) easy.

Applying for financial aid from the university is as easy as applying for admission—it’s the same application. Based on academic credentials, students learn what scholarships they qualify for as soon as they know they’ve been admitted. There are many other opportunities for aid, too. Though it’s a private school, it’s among the most affordable in the country.

  1. You can’t beat a Ghetto porch.

The Ghetto—otherwise known as the student neighborhood at the University of Dayton—is filled with old, janky houses with perfect porches. The first thing students do when the weather warms up in the spring is sit on a porch and wave to their neighbors. It’s a friendly, open-door neighborhood full of that community vibe Flyers just can’t get enough of.

  1. The whole world needs the Marian Library.

UD is home to the largest collection of printed materials about the mother of God on the planet. The Marian Library is filled with priceless works of scholarship and devotion to Mary and her place in salvation history. Its executive director—Fr. Francois Rossier—speaks five languages, has taught on every continent, and was installed by the Vatican. It’s that big a deal.

  1. UDRI is a research powerhouse.

The University of Dayton Research Institute makes great strides in energy, environment, aerospace, sustainability, sensors, materials, and many more fields. They’ve made a difference in the world, and they do it again and again—all with the help of brilliant professionals and hundreds of dedicated students.

  1. Everyone finds something to love at UD.

Truly embodying the Catholic call to welcome, love, and serve our neighbors, UD brings people together. Whether it’s an annual writers’ workshop, a conference for business geniuses (and students who want to be them), a sandwich and a smoothie at the campus hub for artsy kids, Sunday Mass at the historic chapel, or a good basketball game, there’s at least one something for everyone.

Go Flyers!

Stay humble, be merciful, and keep family first.

The other day my husband told me that we’re “at that stage in our lives where every decision we make is the biggest decision we’ve ever made.” In our early/mid-twenties, newly married, with a home, changing families and friends, and fresh careers, he’s definitely right.

At the moment, we’re in a pretty stable place. But that could change quickly because, as young adults, we just never know what might come up. He’s waiting for the next step in his career to become available, and I’m settling into new and changing opportunities in my job. We’re trying to maintain friendships that are evolving as our lives are diverted, maintain close family ties while our traditions must change, prepare for the fact that our own little bundles are probably on the not-too-distant horizon, and doing what we can to start our married life the right way.

It still takes just a little perspective to make prioritize everything as they deserve to be.

My grandfather-in-law suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s for almost a decade. His wife met his every need unfailingly. When he lost the ability to hold a conversation, she never stopped telling him how much she loved him. When he lost the ability to speak at all, she spoke for him. When he couldn’t care for himself anymore, she barely blinked. She became not just his wife, but his nurse, his caregiver, and his lifeline. And she didn’t once complain.

Recently, his health took a serious turn for the worse. Bedridden, unable to eat, drink, or move, he was surrounded by his family within days. All three of their children—from opposite corners of the country—rushed to his side. My grandmother-in-law held his hand and kept him comfortable and told him stories.

He’d been suffering a long time. We all knew he was ready to go Home. And though the last five years, at least, had been far more work than she’d ever expected in her marriage, his wife still wept to see him on his way out. She still ached to keep him with her longer—to stay at his bedside.

As she told him stories, she laughed about the hard times they’d had as a young couple. She joked about the time she fled to her mother’s after an argument, convinced she couldn’t forgive him. The rest of us thought that sounded pretty serious, but she couldn’t even remember what the fight had been about. She giggled over the antics that had once driven her crazy. And in the quiet moments, when the somber mood overtook her, she explained how she could barely remember the bad times.

“They just don’t matter,” she said. “All I know now is how good it was.”

Half asleep and painfully exhausted, she alternated between staying by his side and fluttering around the house caring for her children and grandchildren. She rarely stopped smiling. And though you could see the hurt in her teary eyes, she told him it was okay to sleep. To rest. To go to Him. He did and, though she misses him dearly, she’s doing her very best to cope and know that he’s in a better place, waiting for her.

That’s what marriage is about: sharing the burden of strength in life’s darkest moments. Knowing your place as a servant to your spouse—no more and no less.

So, in the long run, career adjustments don’t mean much, do they? Neither do day-to-day arguments, annoying routines, or undone chores. We shouldn’t make them bigger than they are. We can only make the choices that are best for our family. There are bigger things in this life and the next. Stay humble, be merciful, and keep your family first. That’s all any of us can do.

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Letting compassion come through.

I spend over two hours of every day on the train during my commute. I definitely prefer it to driving—sure, the schedule is restrictive, but at least I don’t have to deal with expressway traffic or ragoholic drivers—but it has its shortcomings.

One of those is a biggie. Train accidents aren’t common, but they’re not all that rare, either. Pedestrian accidents—sadly, often suicides—are, of course, the worst. I once sat on a train for more than three hours as crews responded to, cleaned up, and investigated a pedestrian accident. It was a heartbreaking experience. The conductor very plainly told us we’d hit someone. More than once, he used the phrase “There’s a body under the train, and they’ve got to get it out.”

He was just trying to keep passengers updated on the situation, but for me, it was way too graphic an overshare. I watched fire, police, and railroad crews moving in and out of the view from my window seat and thought, I’ve literally never been this close to death before. I cried quietly the whole time, imagining that poor man’s last moments.

I haven’t been on a train directly involved in an accident since then, but I’ve sat in backed-up trains waiting for clearance after a crossing accident several other times. This week, on a particularly snowy day with whiteout conditions and slippery streets, my train was stuck when the one ahead of us hit a car at a crossing.

When the conductor announced this delay over the intercom, everyone groaned. Many of us had caught an early train hoping to avoid weather-related delays during rush hour, and there we were, stuck anyway.

But do you know what I realized? While many people were vocal about their disappointment with the delay, not one person spoke up and said, “Wow, I hope the people in the car are okay.” Not one of us. I thought it, but I didn’t say it aloud. I should’ve. Instead, everyone was saying something like, “I hope this doesn’t take as long as it did last time” or “I don’t have time for this.”

For background, delays are longer when there’s a fatality involved. When that happens, all those fire, police, and railroad crews have to perform an investigation and document the accident. When it’s just a car that’s been struck, they can simply clear the tracks of debris, inspect them for soundness, and let the waiting trains move on.

A little while later, the conductor walked through our car and said he’d gotten word that there were no fatalities—a car had stalled on the tracks and the driver couldn’t move it in time because of the heavy snow. The driver managed to walk away without a scratch. Someone had caught the accident on video (a whole other topic, if you ask me), and it looked like the car’s front end was hit by the train—not the midsection, where the driver would’ve been vulnerable.

And do you know what I heard when he said that? “Oh, great, no deaths—we won’t be stuck here much longer.”

Not “Thank God that driver is alive” or “How great that no one was hurt” or even “I hope they had good insurance.” The passengers just voiced a general satisfaction that their schedules wouldn’t be interrupted too dramatically.

It’s amazing how easy it is for us to become desensitized to tragedies. When it’s the train in front of ours doing the hitting and you’re tired after a long day and want to get home, it’s easy to pretend that accident is happening in a different universe, and that makes it easy to pretend that your time is worth more than the life that was at risk. When it’s your train but it’s happened before and it was the victim’s choice to die, it’s easy to block the experience and cast it aside.

The thing is, we don’t even think about it sometimes. It’s not that we actively choose to believe our evening plans are worth more than that person’s whole life. It’s just that it never occurs to us to recognize that lack of thought.

The ability to avoid emotional reactions to catastrophe is a defense mechanism. It’s designed to help us continue surviving even as we face danger, or as others are hurt or killed. But that mechanism doesn’t really prevent the emotions so much as it blocks them. And the mechanism isn’t perfect, either. It’s not the end-all, be-all, and it’s not a solution to the struggles we face. Blocking emotions (or even memories) is simply the mind’s way of protecting us in the moment, much like our bodies elevate our temperature in an attempt to fight infection. Though it’s a valiant effort to address an immediate problem, it can often have longstanding effects on our minds, our emotions, and our souls.

As men and women of a single, global community, we owe it to ourselves and each other to overcome our instincts in favor of compassion and justice. So instead of letting your well-meaning brain stamp out your feelings, let your heart be free to care. Let it speak up, reach out, and make a difference. That’s what makes us human.