By Cari Hurley
Often, when I open an email from President Hurley of Canisius College, the text is addressed to the “Canisius College community.” But “community” doesn’t just mean the students in your residence hall and the professors whose classes will drag you out of bed at 7 a.m.
It doesn’t just include the administrators who send out those schoolwide emails. Our community includes every maintenance worker, mailroom employee, housekeeper and dining hall chef. Students apply to Canisius to get a world-class education; they don’t know that Canisius College also means finding an invaluable lesson of love outside the classroom.
Although our dining hall’s slogan is “Eat. Learn. Live.,” I did not expect to gain valuable skills just by grabbing a quick dinner in between class.
As soon as I saunter over to the Alynea’s pasta station, David, the station’s cook, waves me over, hoping I will gorge myself on his pasta. He knows my order, pasta with red sauce, tons of spinach, and meatballs, but more importantly, he knows that I am probably in need of good conversation. I value the chats that we have in the time that it takes to cook my lunch, where we discuss our weekend plans and long for a lazy day off. He tells me about life with his girlfriend and I feel comfortable enough to tell him about mine. His girlfriend is dragging her feet over painting the living room, he says. I sympathize with him and wish I could stand waiting for my meal all day.
Even just a five-minute conversation is enough to rejuvenate me. It’s true that I come to the dining hall for the food, but I stay for the conversation.
If I’m not in the mood for pasta, Andrea from the Asian station can always make me feel like her own child. She relishes her job, filling the bellies of hungry students with “food made with love.” She may have several daughters at home, but in her perspective, we are all her “babies” and her maternal warmth is comforting.
But no matter if I talk with Andrea or David, Regina is always waiting for me at the cashier’s station. I don’t need to talk much about Regina because every Canisius student who has ever eaten lunch at the dining hall knows how kind and peppy she is. Her boisterous laugh and compliments are practically famous. I’m not sure she knows my name, but her smile makes me feel like family.
This is Canisius. You’ll learn that Aesop was right: No act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted.
The dining hall staff are just a small part of our family. I cannot forget the shuttle driver who stopped the bus just to pet my emotional support dog, Torie. We stood there in the fall warmth for 20 minutes talking about animals and the importance of a protein-rich diet. And I’ll always remember Frank, the janitor who cleaned my residence hall during my sophomore year. Frank was not our cleaner; he was a cheery greeting on your way to class with a spring in his step in the early morning hours.
When I think about graduation, I ponder what my 120-credit degree means. Of course, it is the product of sleepless nights and many hours spent pounding on my keyboard. But it’s also the product of smiles, laughter and love for strangers. Canisius means “men and women for others,” especially those right next to you every day.
Canisius service workers exemplify this value just as much as anyone else. The Canisius experience will teach you the importance of family and you’ll never even have to attend a single lecture.
Cari Hurley appreciates all the ways she learns at Canisius College. (She is no relation to Canisius President John Hurley.)