The Collegian
Monday, December 04, 2023

Kids just need something to do

RICHMOND -- It seemed as if there was glitter everywhere: on the floor, tables, and I even saw it in one of the kid's hair. It was as if Tinker Bell ambushed the Children's Ward at the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) with blue and pink glitter and four of us were left to clean up the mess.

That was the scene of my latest "service" endeavor that was really just a fun morning of doing stuff I hadn't done since elementary school art class. There were probably five or six children who came to the Valentine's Day party, but we managed to pass out coloring sheets to the nursing staff as well as family members who were desperate for something to take their mind off hospitals and illness.

At one point, I found myself sitting at a table with my roommate listening to the grandmother of a 1-year-old pneumonia patient. While she painted wooden hearts for her family, she told us about the youth in her neighborhood. She told us how there's nothing good for them to get involved in, and they usually turn to each other for guidance.

"They just need something good to do," she told us, and as I watched the children around me with IVs in their hands, accompanied by their close relatives, I couldn't help but admit she was right.

I grew up with a stay-at-home mom who drove me everywhere: to tennis practice, track practice, the pool, friend's houses, the doctor, office supplies stores for school projects, the post office ... you get the idea. I went to a church that encouraged youth to make the long road trip to Mexico and to serve families across the Texas border.

We played soccer, brought arts and crafts, told stories, gave piggyback rides, jumped rope and otherwise just tried to run all the energy out of them for their parents to have some peace and quiet. It wasn't until I came to college that I realized that it's kind of ridiculous that we went all the way to Mexico when there are neighborhoods (and hospitals) right here craving that kind of attention. Craving something to do.

I'm in a class this semester where we are learning some of the stuff this woman told me during our conversation. We've studied political voice and discovered the same sentiments as she described to me: No one seems to care about her neighborhood. We've been studying the City of Richmond, but our personal conversation was not based on census data or government research. In the classroom, we've studied gangs, drugs and truancy, but she spoke in a way that forced me to care more about my education -- it's a lot more personal than I usually admit.

Children need glitter the same way college students need to spend time outside the college environment: to remember that life was meant to be absurd rather than calculated. I'm a fan of the community-based learning programs two of my teachers have advocated, and I believe every class should have a community element. Maybe the school should kick us off of the couch every once in a while to do something meaningful.

So get off the couch, out of the library and off of campus to learn why college matters. Breathe a little life into that education.

Contact opinion editor Michael Rogers at

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