March 16, 2010

A Simple Gesture, A Big Impact

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One of the only moments in my life where I have little to no regard for the well-being of others occurs when I play sports. Anyone who has ever played basketball with me knows that I can get vicious. In the throes of intense physical competition, my normally calm, cool and collected demeanor suddenly turns into a raw, unfiltered rage. While I often analyze my behavior in an attempt to control it, I realize that on a macro-level this penchant to overlook others occurs in some way, shape or form to all Cornellians.

You see, everyone at Cornell competes at something, be it academics, sports, positions in groups or clubs, etc., and everyone wants to win. In the midst of daily jockeying to get ahead in life, it’s easy to lose sight of the things that are really important to oneself and the “big picture” suddenly narrows into a myopic tunnel vision. If you doubt this, just ask any engineer how he or she has felt while studying for a curved exam, and see how willing he or she was to share notes or help their struggling peers.

In an effort to curb this insular tendency in our culture, I would like to share the following words of wisdom that I have amassed during my four years at Cornell. As someone who is supposed to represent you, I can’t help but feel responsible for also ensuring your safety — both physically and mentally. I should also note that the following advice applies to me first before you — and since I’m sharing it and encouraging you to follow it, I pledge that from this day forth I will try my best to incorporate these practices into my day-to-day activities.

The first titular habit that I would highly recommend is to smile. Regular readers of the G-Whiz publication distributed by Gannett in bathroom stalls around dorms on campus may know that the very act of smiling releases endorphins into your brain giving you an immediate lift. Also, smiling is extremely contagious. Give someone a smile and chances are that you’ll get one in return. My favorite quote from one of my favorite movies of all time, Gladiator, goes: “Death smiles at us all; all a man can do is smile back.” So smile. Smile to show that despite all the adversities you may encounter, you still have your dignity. Smile to show that no matter what life throws your way, your soul is unconquerable and your head will remain unbowed.

Take it from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. I’m not referring to the climactic love story between the hopelessly romantic protagonists — by the time I had actually read the play, I had seen so many adaptations of their amorous relationship in popular culture that in the original work it ironically seemed cliché and therefore did not interest me — but to the less-remembered supporting character, Mercutio. While it’s easy to cast this guy off as an insouciant jokester, the one thing we can all learn from him is his ability to find comedy in any situation; even during his last remaining breaths he manages to slip in a few one-liners.

Second, call your parents everyday and tell them you love them.  Every day. Not only during special events. Everyday should be Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. You don’t need a day to tell you that you should love your parents. God knows they have sacrificed an enormous amount of time, money and energy to get you to an Ivy League institution and the least you can do to show your appreciation is to give them a minute of your day. If you don’t have anything else to tell them, it’s okay. Just the fact that you took the time to call shows that you are thinking about them, and as a result you’ll probably get a lot more preferential VIP treatment (especially enjoyable if you have siblings) than you’re used to the next time you’re home.

Everyday should be Thanksgiving too. When you start feeling down in the dumps, think of everything that you do have, such as your health, your family or your friends, and be thankful that you still have at least one of those things. The more you appreciate these luxuries of life now, the less you will regret having not taken advantage of them when they’re gone.

Finally, clean your room. Again, I say this to myself first because anyone who is familiar with my domicile knows that my room is a total mess (contact Sun editors for photographic evidence). Another scientifically proven cathartic measure, an uncluttered room will give you comfort and will improve the quality of your sleep.

So there you have it, be thankful, call your parents, clean your room and most importantly, smile. You’ll never know when this simple act and three simple words — How.Are.You. — could save a life. Take this advice, and bring your smiling faces to the Arts Quad today.

Rammy Salem is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, and is the President of the Student Assembly. He can be contacted at rms84@cornell.edu Guest Room appears periodically this semester.

Original Author: Rammy Salem