Whenever I am having a hard time, all I have to do is read the row of sticky notes I have displayed on the cork-board of my desk. Each of these post-its has a phrase written on it that reminds me of some of the most important truths in my life and that helps me refocus my perspective on life.
One of the quotes I have stuck up on this wall is the one I used as my senior quote in high school: “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” –Mother Teresa
I have always loved this quote because I feel that it articulates very beautifully the way in which I hope to go about living my life. However, I also find it very interesting from a structural point of view.
The first key point that helps convey the meaning of this quote is the use of “great” in the first clause. “Great” on its own can mean several different things; however, by using it as a descriptor and also linking it to the word “small” in the next clause with a contrasting conjunction (“but”), it is made clear that in this context, “great” means something big and magnificent.
Having made this meaning clear through the structuring of the sentence, it is then easily understood that the repetition of “great” as a descriptor towards the end of the sentence is also referring to something of a large magnitude. However, by using the same meaning of “great” to describe two different nouns–“things” and “love”–the message is conveyed that everyone has the potential for “greatness” in some sense; it is just a matter of whether we attempt to focus on making the action itself great or the amount of love that is put into the action.
Another key point is the use of the first person plural (“not all of us” and “we”) as opposed to the third person. By choosing to utilize this point of view, it makes the statement seem to be much more personal, something that is true of everyone. This then reminds people that Mother Teresa, someone who can very easily be regarded by some as an example of someone who has accomplished extraordinary actions, is actually an example of someone who has accomplished putting an extraordinary amount of love into her actions.
“DONATE.” This word, and various iterations of it, always seems to find a home on the websites and pamphlets of different charities and nonprofits. Understandably so, however, since these organizations rely heavily on the donations of outsiders to continue pursuing their respective missions. But the commonality of donation-eliciting tactics has, I would argue, desensitized most people to them. In other words, upon seeing something that encourages them to donate, most people will not think much of it (unless, of course, they are deeply interested in or moved by the organization’s cause), simply brushing these efforts off as “just something that charities and nonprofits do.” Yet not all organizations use the same strategies to raise capital, nor do they execute the same general strategies in the same exact way. In other words, these tactics are tailored to fit the particular needs or concerns of the organization. Thus, I propose that these tactics, such as having a donate button on the organization’s website, are not merely normative behavior expected of these types of organizations, but also useful tools that can help give clues about the external factors and forces affecting a particular organization. The usefulness of donation strategies in giving deeper insight into the larger picture can be seen clearly with the Dupont Circle Club, a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization in Dupont Circle that aims to provide a safe and welcoming place for people to embark on their addiction recovery journeys. This essay, then, aims to argue that the Dupont Circle Club’s large effort in garnering donations could be in part due to a larger problem: the rising prices in Dupont Circle.
While it does seek to educate people about its mission, the Dupont Circle Club also greatly utilizes its homepage to garner donations. As with any homepage, the Dupont Circle Club homepage aims to provide people with basic information about the organization: the title informs people that the Dupont Circle Club is “Your Local Meeting Place in DC for 12-Step Recovery” and the body of text begins with stating the organization’s mission: “Improve Lives, One Person at a Time.” The homepage even provides visitors with a map of where exactly the Dupont Circle Club is located in Dupont Circle. However, these components that seek to familiarize people with the organization coexist with many other components of the website that seek to encourage people to donate. For example, the Dupont Circle Club has several modules along the sides of the webpage that link people to donation-related pages. More specifically, these modules link people to the organization’s online donation page, AmazonSmile, a website created by Amazon that “will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization of your choice,” and the Club’s donation form. Additionally, the Dupont Circle Club bolded the phrases “help us keep the doors open,” “Remember,” “501 (c) 3 non-profit,” and “tax deductible.” “Tax deductible” is particularly eye-catching due to the fact that it is also underlined and italicized. These text-style choices effectively emphasize these words to the visitor, along with the idea that ties them all together: donating. These two tactics, of course, are in addition to the three sub-pages of the “Giving” section of the website’s main menu. As a result of the sheer number of homepage aspects that focus on it, raising money has a very strong presence.
However, from looking at the websites of similar organizations, donation-eliciting efforts having a strong presence on the homepage does not seem to be the norm. For comparison’s sake, let us look at the homepages of the websites for the Phoenix House and the MARR Addiction Treatment Center, two other nonprofit addiction recovery centers. While they share similar features, the homepages for the Phoenix House and the MARR Addiction Treatment Center do not have nearly the same number of links that bring visitors to donation-related pages as the homepage for the Dupont Circle Club, nor is there any text present on their homepages that are dedicated to convincing people why they should donate. As a result, donation activity is not competing with the mission for attention on these two homepages in the same way it is on the Dupont Circle Club homepage. But the fact that two randomly selected organizations with similar structures and missions do not emphasize donating nearly as much as the Dupont Circle Club strongly indicates that the Dupont Circle Club is not following some sort of normative behavior or niche culture; rather it has chosen to have its efforts to bring in donations take on a fairly central role.
One possible reason the Dupont Circle Club’s donation efforts are playing a large role is the rising prices of space in Dupont Circle. Since the early 1990s, rent in Dupont Circle has been rising. This increase in price is particularly noticeable when looking at the fifteen years between 1990 and 2005 because rent doubled, or even tripled, for some locations in Dupont Circle during that time. As a result, numerous stores, many of which helped give Dupont Circle its character, were forced to close, including Schwartz Pharmacy, Janus Theater, and Larimer’s market. But while this price trend perhaps has not been as drastically evident in recent years, it still very much exists. Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial real estate services company, states on its blog that, “The Dupont Circle neighborhood is still affected by changes that are being seen across the DC metro region–a shortage of Class B supply due to ownership renovations repositioning has made rents steadily climb.” In other words, businesses and organizations in Dupont Circle are continually being faced with rent that is harder and harder to afford. The Dupont Circle Club, of course, is among this lot. But with a steadily rising rent expense, it is most likely becoming harder for the Dupont Circle Club to cover all of its expenses; funds that were previously enough to get it by are probably no longer sufficient. However, it is equally probable that the organization finds the thought of giving up its location in Dupont Circle for one elsewhere extremely hard since its location has played an integral role in shaping its character and identity. Dupont Circle is built into the very name, and thus fabric, of the organization, and so it does not make much sense for it to be located anywhere else but in Dupont Circle. Therefore, it is reasonable to think that the Dupont Circle Club opted for the only other plausible option it had: trying to increase donations so that it can afford to remain in Dupont Circle. Such a choice would then help explain the stronger presence of donation-eliciting tactics on the Dupont Circle Club’s homepage as compared to similar organization’s homepages.
However, the increasing prices in Dupont Circle are not only affecting businesses; they are affecting people too. Although it is much harder to notice than the effects on businesses with storefronts, the effects of increased prices on people is equally important. But Dupont Circle becoming more and more expensive is not affecting just any and all groups of people; it is particularly affecting members of the LGBTQ+ community, the community for whom the Dupont Circle previously existed, who can no longer afford to live there. While LGBTQ+-identified people being pushed out from a certain DC neighborhood may not seem to have relevance to most of us at the outset, it, in actuality, does. Gentrification is not unique to DC; it is a phenomenon that is affecting cities across the country, and because it is typically a minority group being forced out by the majority group, I believe it merits a moment of our thought. Why is this occurring? How are those being gentrified affected? Should this be addressed? How so? These are the types of questions we should be asking ourselves so that we as a society can make more intentional, informed decisions in the future rather than acting as if all of our actions occur in a vacuum where no such thing as a ripple effect exist.
Lately, whenever I walk around certain parts of campus, I see the words, “#ToImmigrantsWithLove Clothing Drive” plastered on the walls, and the more that I have seen this phrase, the more I have started to think about the “#ToImmigrantsWithLove” portion of it.
From a grammatical point of view, this phrase makes no sense since it is just two prepositional phrases put together–there is no subject or verb, the basic building blocks of a sentence. However, within the context of a culture in which it is far from unusual to begin a piece of correspondence with “to” and end it with “with love,” it is quite easy for people to recognize that this phrase is utilizing parts of the format of a letter/postcard/email/etc. But by incorporating only the very beginning and ending phrases, rather than some sort of “main message” slogan or phrase, it is implied that there is so much more that wants to be said, that there are so many personal and heartfelt messages for immigrants that want to be, and are being, voiced. In this case, donating gently used clothes embodies everything that the people involved want to convey.
This then moves me to my next point: the hashtag. The decision to use a hashtag gives the phrase another layer of meaning because it indicates that this phrase is representative of a larger movement/campaign with an online presence, and is thus something for everyone to participate in, or simply just see.
However, the creation and advertising of this phrase as a hashtag is also indicative of the fact that this movement finds its roots, or is mostly driven by, the younger generations. This is because the hashtag has only really become prevalent in recent history, and thus only those who have been very active or involved with modern technology/ the Internet will truly understand what the hashtag represents. Unsurprisingly, this group primarily consists of people from younger generations. Therefore, the mere existence of this hashtag, but also the marketing of this hashtag, only leads to the conclusion that it is younger, more plugged-in people at the helm of this very worthy campaign.
However, I sincerely hope that we do not get so dialed into the details that we forget what this movement aims to do at a macro-level: to not only acknowledge the common humanity in a marginalized community, but also work to counter the arguably dominant narrative that immigrants are unworthy, unwanted, and unloved, particularly here in America.
During the summer before my senior year in high school, I went on a four day overnight retreat called Kairos. When I was boarding the bus that would take us to the retreat center, I honestly did not know what to expect–but I’m glad that I didn’t. Because I entered the retreat with no preconceived ideas or expectations, I believe I was really able to feel the full impact of the retreat and get the most out of it. In fact, I was so moved by everything that I had experience during those four days that I decided to dedicate a large portion of my senior year to helping prepare and lead other Kairos retreats.
One phrase that is closely associated with Kairos is “Live the Fourth.” As one can see from the structure of the phrase, it is a command; but a command to do what exactly? Well, due to the (very necessary!) secretive nature of Kairos, I can’t really say. Sorry.
But what I can say is that this phrase has a general meaning that holds true for everyone, but also a specific meaning unique to each individual person. However, the creation of these two meanings from one phrase is only possible due to the utilization of “the Fourth,” a very general word that can stand for a plethora of things, in the phrase rather than something more explicit. But I believe that the fact that the structure of this phrase allows for different meanings to coexist is what makes the phrase all the more beautiful.
For this ethnography, I thought it would be interesting to analyze the English translations of Chinese sentences that I often have to do for my Chinese class.
Since they are simply translations of already established sentences, and thus ideas, it is typical behavior to translate the sentence in Chinese as closely as you can in English, even though less precise translations probably convey the same idea. Furthermore, it is expected that your translation uses proper English grammar rather than “Chinglish” (using Chinese grammar structures that do not exist in English in your translation). However, I only came to know of these conventions by having seen many examples of good English translations and having been explicitly told by my professor to do, or not do, such things.
And because these translations are done in a classroom or academic context, their goal or purpose are quite clear: to demonstrate to my audience (my Chinese professor) that I understand new Chinese grammar structures and how they translate into English. Additionally, the academic context of these translations means that my grades are at stake in these writings. As a result, I often get feedback from my professor on these translations in which she points out grammar points that I should have included or changed in order for me to do better on future translations.
However, because it is not always clear how to translate a certain phrase, it can be quite frustrating at times to write these translations. This is especially true when I have to do such translations on tests because I cannot reference my textbook, the internet or friends as I can when I am simply doing such translations for homework.
The life of a college student includes many things, such as spending late nights in the library (or in my case, the business school breakout rooms), eating dining hall food that is less than appetizing, and sending a lot of emails.
And I, as a college student, am no different. While I definitely receive more emails than I send out, I do write my fair share of emails, especially to professors. This is because emails can serve a multitude of purposes, from conveying a question in need of clarification to alerting the professor of a particular circumstance to setting up appointment times.
But since there exists the teacher-student power dynamic when emailing a professor, certain writing conventions need to be followed that do not necessarily need to be followed when emailing your peers or other people with whom you have a close relationship. Some of these conventions include always including a formal greeting at the beginning of the email, emailing them at appropriate times, and avoiding using any sort of emojis or slang.
I first learned about these conventions years ago when I began to start writing emails to my teachers. My mom and/or my older brother would always read over my emails and give me advice on how to make my email more appropriate and professional. Without them, I would have realized the many conventions for emailing professors much later on in my life.
Because the audience of the email (i.e. the professor(s) to whom you are sending an email) is most likely expecting these conventions to be followed, not following them can put your reputation at stake because they may assume that you do not care enough to show due respect to your professor(s).
I begin most of my emails very soon after I think of something that I need to ask or inform a professor about. They do not tend to be long-thought out pieces of writing. I only spend enough time writing emails to ensure that I clearly conveyed what I wanted to and that I made sure to follow the various writing conventions associated with emailing a professor. Because of this, I can write emails almost anywhere my phone or laptop has internet connection, but I do usually prefer writing emails when I am sitting in my own room.
But while the process of writing emails to my professors usually looks more or less the same for me, what I am feeling as I write them depends on the content of the email. For example, the most recent email I sent was to my Chinese professor, in which I told her that I had completed an assignment and had attached it to the email. Because I was checking something off my to-do list, I felt a sense of relief as I hit send. However, if I had been emailing her about a potential problem, I might have been feeling worried instead. But, with the number of emails students send to professors, the entire range of emotions will probably be covered sooner or later.
For this ethnography, I decided to focus on the case report that I had to write with my group members for our Accounting 101 class. Because our report had to be written in the form of a business memo, there were certain writing conventions we had to follow. Most notably, we had to create a heading that stated “To: (Professor’s name)” on the first line, “From: (names of group members)” on the second line, “Date: (the due date of the assignment)” on the third line,” and “Subject: (case name)” on the last line. Then immediately below the last line of the heading was a solid black line that separated the heading from the body of the memo. Additionally, the body of the memo was suppose to read as one cohesive, yet concise, piece of writing rather than as numbered responses to each of the individually posed questions. Lastly, graphs, tables, and other types of exhibits were allowed, and maybe even encouraged, as a means to help summarize the information we were presenting. However, before completing this assignment, I was not aware of any of these conventions since I had never written a business memo before. I only became aware of them when the professors clearly laid them out in the instructions for the assignment.
Since this was an assignment for a class, a portion of my grade was at stake with this case report. Furthermore, what the goal or aim of this piece of writing was also very apparent: it was suppose to prove to our audience, our professor and possibly some teaching assistants, that we knew how to read various financial statements and use the information in those statements to make calculations and inferences.
However, despite the relative importance of this case report, my group and I did not start working on it until a few days before the due date. But this ended up being enough time because we managed to finish the report the night before it was due, and I think this was in large part due to the fact that we worked through the entire case together, rather than trying to split up the work and then trying to stitch everything together. However, the process of writing this was admittedly quite frustrating because the questions we were responding to were not entirely clear and one of my group members failed to pull his weight in constructing the case report.
But all of that is in the past now. All I can do is hope that the next time we have a case assigned to us, things will go better than this first time around.