Editorial: Improve yourself this year by helping others

Editorial Board

A new year and a new beginning.

Marist Poll reported “being a better person” as one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions this year.

In a time of great change and turbulent politics, we find such an aspiration admirable and enthusiastically endorse its broader adoption.  As the new year begins, students, faculty and staff face many changes.  We have new schedules, new courses, a new classroom management system, a new university president, possibly new jobs and living arrangements. The list goes on.

When we face change, we need to be aware of it. Sometimes we resist and focus more inwardly, looking at the effect of change on ourselves and not on the broader community we reside in. 

What could it mean to be a better person? Perhaps most important is to think beyond self, to consider others and extend compassion and concern to a broader range of people. 

This can be done in both small and large ways.  Offer to help someone who looks confused or lost as they find their way across campus. Introduce yourself to the students sitting on both sides of you.  Volunteer for one of the many programs ISU student groups organize. If you live off campus, help a neighbor who’s homebound because of the extreme cold.  Take unused clothes or old glasses to Goodwill or McFarland clinic rather than toss them out. 

Taking a broader social view, we can write letters to the editor, call our legislators and elected officials, go to the State Capitol, vote here in Ames and respond to surveys at Iowa State.  Often, “self” interest is really just another term for “short-term” interest.  We may be caught up in our personal schedules; we are busy with classes, study, work and the clubs future employers want us to be officers in.  But thinking only of our personal and immediate interests can have long-term negative effects. 

For instance, if only graduate students had protested the possibility in last year’s tax bill that their tuition waivers would be taxable income, the effect would have been felt across our university and not just by graduate students. We are interconnected, and while we have only limited time, we become better when we use some of it to help others and work for change that affects more than just ourselves.