Jan. 22, 2016

Catholic University students spent Martin Luther King Jr. Day completing service throughout the city.

The following reflection was written by Michaela Shea, a senior English major.

As I left my apartment on Monday morning, Jan. 18, I recoiled at the sharp wind that penetrated all three layers of my clothing. I briefly contemplated getting back in bed. It was my day off, after all. However, as soon as I entered the Great Room, I was reminded that Martin Luther King Jr. Day was a day on, a day dedicated to promulgating the social justice and mercy exemplified by Dr. King.

The day began with a speech by Thomasine Johnson, associate vice president for public safety and emergency management, about how Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement affected her. She recalled that the March on Washington was a group of faith-based people advocating for what they believed was just, motivated by their steadfast belief in God. As she sent us off, her advice for the day was, "You have to let faith lead you."

An hour later my group stood huddled in front of a pile of saws, clippers, and crowbars. John, the representative from the Rock Creek State Park Conservancy, explained that we would be removing the English ivy that was killing many of the trees in the park. With numb fingers and large tools, we went to work saving the trees.

One particular tree was completely covered in thick vines that were tangled together and firmly cemented to the trunk. After a few difficult minutes of trying to remove them with the crowbar, we considered moving on because it seemed as if there was no chance of success. It was then that Ms. Johnson's speech rang in my ears. She had told us that Dr. King succeeded because he had faith, and even if our faith is only the size of a mustard seed, we can make a change. I persuaded my group to persevere and 20 minutes later, we had liberated the tree.

President Garvey began the day by acknowledging our apprehensions about engaging with those who are different or partaking in undesirable tasks. He then asked us to think about what would happen and who would go without if we didn't engage. If not us, who? If not now, when? By the end of the day 700 CUA students had served at 19 sites around D.C.. My group of 31 students alone had saved 163 trees in Rock Creek State Park.