Caring for our common home

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Abandoned cafeteria plates and trash fill the outdoor tables on the Mall. Photo by Kaity Chaikowsky.

During a tour for the Office of Admissions last year, I walked a prospective student and her mother through the Art Village on a particularly pleasant spring day. As I discussed the history of the Art Village, I noticed the mother’s eyes dart to a spot just beside my left foot, where a caf plate and a crushed can of Natty Light were shining up at us indignantly from a pile of fallen leaves.

I widenned my smile, shifted my stance to shield the litter on my left and proceeded to explain how the Art Village had been set apart from the rest of campus as a place known for its creativity and beauty. The irony of the trails of trash scattered throughout the woods did not escape me or the visiting family.

The Art Village is not the only place on campus that suffers from careless clutter. Walk across the Mall on a given Friday and you’ll see nearly every table overflowing with caf trays and empty Cap Bar cups. None of us enjoy such an unpleasant sight — except perhaps the flies feasting off of half-eaten pizza — but it does help explain why Aramark was forced to pay $20,000 last year to replace its broken and stolen kitchenware items.

What’s stopping students from cleaning up after themselves?

In 2015, Pope Francis published an encyclical entitled “Laudato Si,” in which he implores “every person living on this planet” to take greater care of God’s creation. Creation is a gift freely given to us by God, and such a gift merits our gratitude. Thus, Pope Francis opens his encyclical with the words “Laudato si, mi signore,” or “Praise to you, my Lord.”

Yet it is not enough to express our gratitude merely through words; our conscious and continual care for this shared gift is also necessary. This is why “Laudato Si” bears the subtitle “On Care for Our Common Home,” as a call to action for every person who makes their home amongst God’s creation.

In the same way, our time as students at the University of Dallas is a gift. For four short years, we delight in the education and the community that comes along with the gift of our undergraduate years here. This campus becomes our home, and we profess our gratitude for it as we proudly proclaim “Love ye, UD.” But do we care for our common home in our actions?  Just as we are called to be stewards of the earth, so too are we called to be stewards of this university which we are so privileged to attend.

Our gratitude for the gift of UD should encourage us to do simple things like put our plates away and maybe even to stop aimlessly leaving our cigarette butts strewn about the Mall. In this way we show our love for our campus and for those with whom we share it.

Let our gratitude for UD be shown in our actions, and let us not, as Pope Francis writes in his encyclical, “come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will.

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