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Remember the world-turners

Red Bulls and sweatpants, all-nighters in Perkins, frantic fingers cranking out last-minute papers. It’s that time of year again, and just one week stands between us and Comedy Central on our parents’ couch.

If you’re a senior like me, you might find yourself rethinking your previous high academic standards and constantly doing GPA-math in your head. As I pore over subjunctive tenses, I think, “You know, what’s really wrong with B’s anyway?” And later while reading Foucault, “Whose idea was this whole thesis thing anyway?” “Why am I a political science major again?” I let my eyes wander over the graffiti on the study desk—“Finals Spring ’94!” “Home stretch, baby! Finals Fall ’96.” Sometimes, it’s easy for us to forget that there is life after Duke. During finals week especially, we forget to look around and reflect on our lives and the world around us. Maybe I am just trying to ditch Foucault, but I think it’s important that we all step back for a bit and remember our little world and some of the people who help keep it turning:

1) Workers at the Duke Post Office: It’s common knowledge that these folks are some of the nicest, most helpful people around. I’m not sure what their secret is, but they always make my day. In fact, I think I am going to go mail something just so that some of their optimism rubs off on me.

2) Nurses: My sister is a hospice nurse. She helps the dying to pass on with grace and dignity, and she does it with love and understanding. Most people would find this work extremely depressing, but for my sister and other nurses, it’s a calling.

3) Professors: Yeah, these people might not be on the top of our lists right now, but they deserve to be. We might have to write 20-page papers this week, but our professors have to read all those papers. Do the math for some of your classes—this adds up to some serious reading. Then they have to add thoughtful comments that we (hopefully) read and take to heart.

4) Landmine workers: This one hit me a few days ago. Somebody has to painstakingly remove landmines in order to save the lives and limbs of others. Sometimes, dogs or machines help, but in many of the countries where landmines are located, this work is done by people with little shovels.

5) Parents: No, not just for those $40,000 checks some of them write every year. For the cookies they send in the mail. The socks they buy us when we come home. The encouragement and love they gave us to get us here. The way they say, “I’m sure you’ll do fine!” so confidently they actually make us believe that we can write 20 pages in 24 hours.

6) Grandmothers: My mom always told me that if all the grandmothers got together, they could change the world. Four hundred Israeli grandmothers are trying to do just that. Members of Machsom (Checkpoint) Watch stand in the hot sun alongside Israeli soldiers as they help protect the rights of Palestinians. Even though many Israeli settlers revile them (sometimes even violently attacking the women), these grandmothers have the chutzpah to defend their Palestinian neighbors.

7) Duke bus drivers: Recent sit-ins and campaigns have drawn attention to this under-appreciated group of campus workers. Our bus drivers circle the same routes over and over again, while putting up with riders who are sometimes obnoxious and rude. And to those drivers who have an especially keen eye for students racing to catch their bus or pitifully standing outside freshly closed doors—thank you.

8) Farmworkers: They really put the food on our tables, but we pay them abysmal wages. For their backbreaking work in the hot sun, they are usually paid just enough to cover their meals and rent in crowded trailers. And the pesticides. And poor (or nonexistent) healthcare. Thanks to a recent bargaining agreement, we can now eat Mt. Olive pickles with pride, but what about our apples, oranges and salads? These hard workers deserve better from us.

Of course, many people were left off this list. Take a study break to remember your own world-turners. Now, get back to the books!

Bridget Newman is a Trinity senior.

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