Though I was only seven years old, I can clearly recall the exact moment in which I first experienced the love and responsibility that comes with being part of a community.
Living in Connecticut at the time, just miles outside of New York City, I witnessed firsthand the destruction and despair following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Yet, at the same time, I was also able to witness an entire community joining together.
After the events of September 11, my friend and I decided to open a lemonade stand to raise money for the relief effort at ground zero. We made over $1000 in just a couple of hours. But what I will never forget was the moment our mailman pulled over from his route to quickly donate $20.
Being a seven-year-old, $20 seemed like a million bucks, and I was further shocked that he didn’t even want a cup of lemonade. It was actions like these – strangers helping strangers, or perhaps friends loving old foes – that taught me the true essence of community.
Since then, I was fortunate to experience a loving, supporting community within my high school and I have absolutely loved the community aspects at the university. I like to think of the university as a community in which everybody works together to make our university the best it can be.
The amount of support students show for others’ work, events, causes and even downfalls is overwhelming. The teamwork between students and staff to make the university the best is inspiring, and the friendliness of students has made my experience here all the better.
We support different organizations’ philanthropy events. We enthusiastically support our athletes and artists. When we take a step back in university progress, such as the recent string of drug-related arrests, students join together at Frog Fountain to pray for guidance, reinforcement and love for those affected.
All these instances exemplify the lesson that every incoming freshman is now taught before even starting classes: We are all Frogs first.
That is why I was shocked when an expensive North Face jacket was taken from where I left it last Tuesday morning while I was at the Recreation Center. I left the jacket at a treadmill, moved to a different machine, went to the bathroom, and then remembered before leaving I had left my jacket by the treadmill.
However, when I walked down the row of exercise machines to pick it up, it was gone. Not wanting to jump to conclusions or judge a fellow student, I went to the front desk hoping somebody had returned it.
No such luck. Since it has been almost a week and nobody has returned my possession, I have no other alternative to consider other than the reality that somebody at the university stole my jacket.
If you agree with me about the type of community our university is — one filled with love, support, friendly people and cooperation — then you would agree with me that we have a responsibility to each other. Community thrives on each member looking out for others.
We love hearing that our baseball team won the game, or that a recent dance major graduate is heading for Broadway, or perhaps that a freshman business major won a prestigious national award, because though we will never know every single Horned Frog on campus, we ultimately all belong to the same family.
We have a responsibility to each other to respect each other’s belongings, to support each other’s efforts, and to earn each other’s trust. If we cannot accomplish these things, I don’t believe we earn the right to call ourselves a community.
And though I am certain 99 percent of university students do not steal, I believe the issue raises an important question.
Do you exemplify the true characteristics of a community member? Do you respect your fellow classmates and teachers, support clubs and organizations, and treat others as you would wish to be treated?
If not, try it out. The university student body is a unique one, and despite all our differences, we are all ultimately “Frogs.” So let’s act that way.
Booey Mittelstadt is a freshman film-television-digital media and political science double major from Chattanooga, Tenn.