“Make-do Soup” (The Responsibility of Every Alum)

I remember reading a certain story as a kid, a story I’ll paraphrase because I can’t remember the exact details:

Two travelers were stuck sitting in a barn, with heavy rain pouring outside. With nowhere to go until the rain stopped, they decided to make some soup. Each had very limited ingredients; one had potatoes, the other one carrots, but with some rainwater, they start making a pretty good broth. Pretty soon another traveler comes into the barn, soaking wet from the rain. After some greetings and warming up, he coincidentally pulls out an ingredient he’s been carrying around and graciously adds it to the broth. This happens a couple times, with more people coming into the barn for refuge from the heavy rain, and with everyone contributing something to the pot, an insufficient bowl of broth started to become a bountiful pot of what was now called “make-do” soup, enough to feed everyone in the barn and even more left over.

Now think about your alma mater. Because right now, if you’re prepared, I’m going to tell you what “make-do” soup and your alma mater have in common. And no, I’m not talking about cafeteria food.

Being an alum of any school, college, university, or institute, is more than just having an academic history. It’s a responsibility, that every alum must carry.

Regardless of whether or not the place you’ve graduated from was good or bad, poor or rich, classy or trashy, it’s a part of your life. And your responsibility as an alum of where you’ve graduated from is to show the world what the school or institute has taught you and use what you have learned to make the world just a little better. No arguments there.

Say the place you’ve graduated from is the dirtiest, trashiest place you’ve been to, but regardless of this negative aspect, you can tell anyone how close-knit the school community is, or how excellent the underpaid teachers are, or how much fun you’ve had despite the surroundings you’ve had as a student, then, boom, responsibility. You are now responsible in bringing out and showing all that goodness you’ve experienced in the school to the rest of the world. You show the world what you were able to “make-do” of the situation, and the bad only becomes an afterthought in light of the good.

Now sure, giving people awareness of what they can expect to not like about the school/institute they will possibly attend is always good, it’s actually very important in some cases (choosing a college, picking good teachers etc.). But there is a thin, fine line between promoting awareness and just plainly insulting.

Pennstate Abington path (shot by Jairus James)

Penn State Abington path (shot by Jairus James)

I go to Penn State Abington. No, it’s not a huge school like Penn State’s University Park campus is. No it’s not an Ivy League school. But heck, it’s a pretty good school. To this day I can honestly say that I’m always amazed at the diversity on campus, the extracurricular activities, the people, personalities, great teachers (and yeah, there’s always a bad teacher too), the beautiful landscape of the campus, the list can go on and on, just like this run-on sentence I just finished completing. And like the uniqueness of the campus, this list of qualities is different for every individual.

There will always be some negative side to every situation you encounter in life, and school is no exception. But as a student and possible future alumnus, it’s my responsibility to make the best of what I have and make sure I have no regrets. I need to contribute my own ingredient, along with everyone else’s, into the ever growing pot of “make-do” soup, . Because it’s not just about what I’m cooking…it’s about what’s cooking and how it betters the lives of everyone, not just yours.

In the end, it’s going to take a lot of effort to do what needs to be done. And “make-do” soup is no one-man job.


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