OPINION: The homeless deserve respect, not apathy

Abbey Marshall | Managing Editor

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We see them downtown, grasping onto tattered cardboard signs, begging for any loose change jangling in your pocket. We seem them curled up in a moth-devoured wool blanket, trying to stay warm on a bitter winter evening. We see them meekly shoving a shopping cart piled up with our garbage in an attempt to salvage anything useful.

They’re always there, so why do we pretend like they don’t exist?

According to The National Alliance to End Homelessness, 578,424 people were without a home on any given night in the United States in 2014. The sad stigma attached to those 578,424 people is that they’re drug addicts, and it’s their own fault that they’re in that situation. This deceptive stereotype hinders society from assisting those in need.

A couple years ago, my family went on a mission trip to Nashville. At a soup kitchen I was serving in, I met a man named John, a black man who served in the Vietnam War. His noble service to our country was hardly appreciated, however, as he returned to a country filled with racial inequality and outrage surrounding the soldiers who served in the war. Post-traumatic stress overcame him, causing him to spiral into poverty and eventually homelessness, as the government and the average citizen sat idly by. It deeply saddens me that nine percent of the United States homeless population are veterans.

Furthermore,  216,197 of the national total are families. So many children are heartbreakingly growing up on the streets, not knowing where their next meal is coming from, most likely deprived of a proper education. It is apparent that kids are not the cause of their own homelessness; they are apart of a vicious cycle that is hard to break. Growing up in poverty results in less opportunities, due to increasingly expensive college tuition. Oftentimes, they will have their own kids who experience the same thing, over and over and over.

Yet we will continue to walk down the streets, quickly stealing a glance out of the corner of our eyes before racing off. We are afraid to give them money, terrified that they’ll use it for drugs and contribute to increasing city crime rates.

My proposal is a modest one, and though it will not enact a monumental change the way a much-needed government reform could, it will definitely make an impact. Sit down on the park bench beside them with a frosty Coca-Cola or even an icy bottle of water and start a genuine conversation. Give them the respect that every person deserves. Not only are you treating them to something they most likely don’t have the money to splurge on, but you are making a tremendous impact by giving them the time that no one else will. It makes them feel appreciated and loved.

I’ve seen it in their eyes.

 

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OPINION: (Not) a happy camper

Abbey Marshall | Staff Writer

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I have always hated hiking.

Stumbling over tangles of roots, trekking across insect-infested dirt mounds, tripping over hidden branches–none of this has ever been appealing to me. Unfortunately, it’s always been four against one in my family.

Recently, we loaded up our minivan and took a trip to the Smoky Mountains. My parents are adventurous beyond belief; they long to venture along rugged mountain terrain, hop over raging rivers, and even to spot a black bear on their journey. My siblings took after them in terms of their athleticism and willingness to hike far distances with unwavering physical ability. I, on the other hand, have not been such a happy camper.

They see the beauty of a mountain? I see an impossible obstacle that will inevitably crush my spirit (and leg muscles). Over the years, I have endured a ten mile hikes, acquired irritatingly itchy mosquito bites, gone to the bathroom in less-than-sanitary places, and had my run in with more spiders and insects than I’d care for. If you asked me why, I’d simply answer “because I had to”.

This trip, however, the tables turned. After a freezing morning hike which involved six layers of clothing, my parents asked if any of us cared to go on another adventure. I looked between their faces and became the only one to agree. My brother and sister stared at me in disbelief. I even heard my dad chuckle, “The one who hates hiking the most!”.

I’m still not sure what possessed me to agree, but I was glad I did. I spent the rest of the afternoon chatting with my parents about the events of my life and exploring a (thankfully) short, secluded trail with a babbling river. The dribbling of the water blended with our cheery conversations like a hushed melody, a nice contrast to my typically obnoxious complaints. Seated on a rock, I marveled up at the beautiful curvature of the mountain I hadn’t taken the time to appreciate before.

On the drive back to the cabin, my dad turned me to and said, “I’m glad you came. It’s like when Mom asks me to go shopping: even though it’s not my favorite, I do it just because I want to spend time with the people I love.”

After my dad said this, the hike we ventured on the next day didn’t seem so torturous because rather than focusing on all the external forces of Mother Nature, I directed my attention to the cheerful humming of my sister or the goofy jokes of my dad. Though my legs burned and I could feel the mosquito bites beginning to swell, I was almost a happy camper.

OPINION: Things I learned from Leslie Knope

Abbey Marshall | Staff Writer abbey column Knope, I was not emotionally prepared for the series finale, and yep, I was parks and wrecked by it. If it isn’t blatantly apparent by my preceding line of terrible puns, I am still reeling from the ending of the beloved comedy “Parks and Recreation”. There are a variety of reasons that I hold this show so near and dear to my heart–anything from Andy Dwyre’s ridiculous antics to Ron Swanson’s pessimistic views of government–could churn up a laugh, but there was always one thing that made it stand out more so than any other show. The character of Leslie Knope, local Parks Department Deputy Director turned federal government employee turned Governor of Indiana, has always been one of my favorites. Her over-enthusiasm for the diabetes-ridden, dingy town of Pawnee, Indiana, is humorous and borderline crazy to viewers, true, but I always found it inspiring. Leslie Knope, quirky and energetic government employee and waffle lover, is living and breathing proof that there are people in the world that are willing to anything and everything to provide for their community and the people within it, and I find that refreshing. The night the finale aired, while scrolling through my social media feed, one quote grabbed my attention among the swarm of cast members’ reminiscing and behind-the-scenes photos: “Be the Leslie Knope of whatever you are”. With this, I realized it wasn’t enough to just appreciate the people who make a change; you need to be the one who makes a change. It’s not enough to be a Ron Swanson, sitting bored at a desk detesting your job and complaining about nearly everything, while the Leslie Knopes of this world campaigns for change. In whatever you do (whether it be politics or teaching or medicine), have passion for what you do be the driving force, even if it’s something as trivial as helping clean up a slug infestation (as Leslie did on her “No Problem Too Small” campaign). Her incessant and unrelenting pride of where she’s from, despite its extreme flaws, is something everyone can take a note from. It’s important to remain loyal to everything and everyone that you love. The world would be a much better if place if there were more Leslie Knopes in it. leslieknopewaffriends

OPINION: Super Bored XLIX

Abbey Marshall | Staff Writer

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Game day: a day of endless screaming and cheering and jeering and eating and shouting and overall obnoxious behavior.

I grew up in a house with a dad and brother that practically have footballs as extra appendages. My Sunday afternoons, which I normally spend lethargically napping, consist of deep bellowing shouts that flood the house during football season. From every touchdown victory to every bad call, I always find myself yawning in contrast to the flurry of emotions that my family expresses. It’s not too hard to see that I never have been interested in sports. Sitting in front of a television screen to witness grown men attacking each other for a ball isn’t exactly my idea of fun; it’s an activity I attempt to evade by holing up in my room to read or work on something productive.

Unfortunately, the love of football that engulfs every inch of my house is unavoidable; to my dismay I have been dragged to high school and college games, I have been taught nearly everything there is to know about the sport, and I have consumed my fair share of stadium snacks.

Naturally, you could see how being forced to watch the Super Bowl would make me consider moving out of a country to a nation where football doesn’t exist. The impending doom I feel on game day is unreal as I savor each free moment I can before kick off. The moment that cleat touches the pigskin, I am trapped in a world of referees and yellow flags and time outs and first downs. I shove my nose in a book, attempting to drone out the torture, but the howls of my family always snap me back into the painful reality.

What I learned to do this year, however, is to set down my own distractions and look — not at the television screen or the athletes running up and down the turf — but really look at my family. Watching them get hyped makes me smile (after all, who doesn’t like to see their civil family turn savage for a few hours?). It must be nice to find a passion in something like that, the way I do in my own activities.

Perhaps I am just lucky to have a family that wants to spend time with me enough to involve me in their love of sports. Perhaps then I am not shackled to the couch during a football game the way I think I am. Perhaps I stay to watch them even though I could drive away — even if that does mean I have to endure game after game.

OPINION: Journals galore

Abbey Marshall | Staff Writer

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I know what inevitably awaits me behind every sheet of tissue paper I unfold, every ribbon I unravel, every piece of wrapping paper I mercilessly tear apart: a journal. The surprise of a gift eludes me each birthday I experience because I know beyond a doubt that a notebook lurks within the gift bags handed to me.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s really quite thoughtful of my friends for considering my interests and personality. I’ve loved the way a pencil felt beneath paper since third grade and I’ve been writing ever since. What people don’t consider, however, is how many spiral bound notebooks I have piled up in my desk drawer,crowding the little free space I have in my room. I often tell eager gift-givers there’s a queue of notebooks waiting to be used that may stretch on for years.

The problem with this endless string of journals is that the world is very tech-oriented. Most of the writing I do involves frantic revising, which is impossible to do without a digital copy of my work that can be changed with a click of a button. While the online world has it’s benefits, I find this to be problematic for the same reason. With one glitch, one glaring, red “x” button in the top right corner, one malfunction of a computer, everything you’ve done can vanish without a trace.

While the excitement of a gift has for the most part vanished, I find it reassuring to be surrounded by unused journals. It’s as simple as writing can be: pen and paper. No keyboards. No mouse clicks. No chance of viruses destroying your work. Blank lines are waiting to be filled with any thoughts I might have, any letters I may write, any stories I wish to tell.

So it’s okay that my pile of journals grow by the holiday. It’s refreshing to have something so simple to rely on, free from the distraction of the busy online world.

OPINION: Messy Detox

Abbey Marshall | Staff Writer

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My room is a mess.

Everyday, I strategically leap across an ocean of denim jeans, expertly sidestep a volcano spewing wrinkly t-shirts, and hurdle a mountain of mismatched shoes.

The irony is that I’m one of the most obsessively organized people you’ll ever meet. I’m someone that will pridefully lend my carefully highlighted notes (complete with diagrams) to someone in dire need of a good test grade. I’m someone that will spend hours on the first day of school surrounded by Sharpies and tab dividers labeling all of my school supplies. Yet, somehow, I’m someone whose room looks like the aftermath of a bombing. No soul possesses enough bravery to break through the barriers and trek across my floor (I swear there’s a rug down there somewhere!). My parents, however, will occasionally creak open the door and peer in just as I’m about to go to sleep, chuckling lightly and making a suggestion to pick up the mess, fully knowing that that is one task that I will never have the chance to complete.

To set one thing straight: I am not lazy. In fact, the reason my room has a ransacked-appearance is quite the opposite. In all actuality, the primary purpose of a bedroom is somewhere to put–surprise!–a bed. Eight hours a night and then I’m out. I don’t like spending monotonous hours upon hours cooped up in the same location, falling into the same repeated patterns and activities. While I hear my friends complaining about spending a whole day reorganizing their living chambers, my mind runs through a list of everything I accomplished on Saturday instead. That’s not to say that I don’t sporadically go on a cleaning spree and tame the wild mess I’ve mysteriously created, but afterwards, while having a slight twinge of gratefulness for the extra space, I feel like I hadn’t tackled the day doing something I truly would’ve enjoyed.

Every aspect of my life, aside from my room, has always been so organized. I always carefully plan a matching outfit, with clean, neatly folded clothes, and my pin-straight hair falls without a strand out of place. But when the sun sets on my perfected schedule, my disastrous, untouched mess becomes a detox. I surface amidst my room’s oceans, volcanoes, and mountains only on the way to bed, and once there it doesn’t matter if I can see the rug.

My eyes are already closed.