True heroism doesn’t require a cape or some superpower; all true heroism requires is a willingness to act when someone else is in need. In many ways, Notre Dame inspires its students to perform tasks that would fit into this definition of true heroism. We don’t run into burning buildings to save kittens on a regular basis but people here are, more often than not, willing to lend a hand to others and serve people in a variety of ways. Before coming here, I believed that the service portion of the “faith, football and service” saying that was supposedly the foundation for ND students, was just volunteer work; but after spending just a few short weeks here, I’ve realized otherwise.
One thing that I will most certainly never forget was the first day I arrived on campus. Just about a month ago, my family and I drove up to the back of my gorgeous dorm, Fisher Hall. Upon parking, I was greeted by a little over a dozen guys who serenaded me with the dorm’s song, asked me what room I was in, took my bags, placed them outside of my room and lofted my bed before I even stepped foot through my door! This sort of service to one another and the world at large is what Notre Dame is built on. Although such actions may seem small, this service to my family and I was heroic.
This past Friday however, I met someone who displayed even more heroism than the kind men of Fisher. I met one of my favorite architects of all time, Marianne Cusato! Ms. Cusato is an ND grad who does work in the area of emergency housing (she is the woman in the “What Would You Fight For” commercial, if you’ve seen it. If not, you're in luck because I've included the video below). She is most famous for her alternative to the FEMA trailers, which was what FEMA used to temporarily house victims of hurricane Katrina. In comparison to the trailers, Cusato’s “Katrina Cottages” were better looking, stronger, and cozier. She gave families homes to live in, not tin cans to struggle in. She does what is the definition of serving the community as an architect, and I have wanted to serve the community through my work, just as she has, for years now. I was honored to simply know that she graduated from my school. Who knew that I’d be shaking her hand just three weeks into my first semester?
Well apparently, my professor invited her to speak to us some time ago and she accepted, taking time out of her assuredly insane schedule to speak to a bunch of freshmen, many of which aren’t even sure whether or not architecture is for them.
After telling us her story, she opened the floor to questions. Students lined up to shake her hand and ask her questions about her work and success. She answered every single person and even gave advice on how to be successful inside and outside of the classroom. She was so very kind, eager to answer questions and willing to listen to us talk about our aspirations and ask for her advice. It blew me away. She offered to sit down and talk to any of us that expressed interest in a longer conversation.
Such kindness and compassion is extraordinary in most parts of the world, but at Notre Dame, it was just a part of a Friday afternoon. We serve each other and welcome one another with open arms. It’s obvious that Notre Dame raises heroes not graduates.