December 6, 2012
When discussing our life on the Hill, we throw around the phrase “Hamilton community.” But what is a community? I asked myself this question after learning that two seniors from my local high school recently lost their lives in a collision with a drunk driver.
The response of my high school, which many previously described as apathetic, was astounding. Students, faculty and alumni came together to share in the memories of these students and support the friends and families. Recent graduates across the country even dressed in our school colors to show support. Most notably, students have used Twitter to successful convince football star Tim Tebow to call and support one of the two students who survived the crash but remains in critical condition.
Day to day, a community is an invisible, abstract structure. Yet its force is undeniable. The idea of a small, cozy support system is appealing to college applicants and, I believe, is certainly present at Hamilton. But I cannot ignore the negatives in our society on the hill. Alcoholism, stereotypes, inclusive behavior and even disrespect are all realities. But the actions taken by my high school have reminded me that any community is capable of positive change.
This is because a community is not a single, rigid entity. Rather, it is composed of living breathing individuals. It’s easy to complain about Hamilton students or ignore a problem by saying “it’s just the culture here.” But we can’t forget that the community is within our control. In fact we are the community. If you want to see a change here, it has to start with yourself. If you want a space for discussion in your community, then be that place for discussion. Even talking to your friends about something that bothers you is a fantastic starting point for change.
Just look at the internet. Facebook is a venue for hate, vanity, jealousy and gossip. Yet all it took was one student to create the Hamilton Compliments page, and hundreds of students rushed to fill this space of support and love. The internet is what you make of it— and our community works the same way.
This is why I am optimistic for the world around me. Because I am a part of it. As are the fantastic individuals I’m lucky to call friends. Even in this past year, I’ve seen Hamilton rise up in response to face challenges. For example last spring, when vandalism was nearly the norm, a group of students got together and started the “Stop Breaking Sh*t” campaign, reminding us that we are accountable for our actions. It was a small step, but also a huge reminder that we shouldn’t tolerate that sort of behavior in ourselves.
On an even smaller scale, changing a community is simply about how we treat one another. I hate when students ignore me on Martin’s Way, and I can’t control that. What I can control are my own actions. When I treat others with respect, I am setting the standards for what is acceptable in my world. And I am not an island. My behavior will undoubtedly influence those around me who in turn will influence others. The process of defining our Hamilton community never ceases, and we all are responsible for the outcome.