When we were children, we often fielded the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And we naturally articulated dreams of becoming firefighters, doctors or teachers. For most of us, our answers were inspired by selfless visions of service, and we justified our answers by a simply desire to “help people” and make an impact in their community.
When asked now, some of us have similar aspirations but for many, our motivations — or at least the shallow focus of our goals — have morphed into something less altruistic. “Helping people” may resonate deep in our minds as a basic goal, but truthfully, our justification for sitting in these classrooms and growing into professionals is to rise in our enjoyed fields of study and rake in cash to afford car payments, baby formula and pantsuits.
Many of us have forgotten what may have been our first passion (which led us to choose certain careers in the first place): serving others. We’ve confused our true passion with our method to realize it.
While many people have lost this altruistic goal, some students haven’t forgotten. They remember their priorities and are working to remind others. Here’s a shout-out to the social workers’ student organization, which recently held an event called “All People Matter” to remind the school’s students why they’re going into the field of social work: because they care about people.
All departments across campus should follow the example of the social workers and take a day or an hour or a few minutes to remind their students about the humanity-building need for their work — whether it be biomedical lab work, communications or classics.
Students need to remember that, at the end of the day and at the end of their lives, the amount of money they made in their work has no relevance. How effectively they served others does. The ripple effect from their work that ameliorates the life experiences of others is what matters.
While many students are required to take an ethics class for their major, many students see this as a blow-off class or a waste of time to discuss situations that students may find themselves in a future workplace. But this attempt to keep students focused on a goal more rewarding than money seems like it goes over the heads of many students.
So professors, remind your students how they should use the skills they’re developing in class to improve the community and to serve their fellow human beings.