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March 18th, 2010

I’m a senior and I have been trying to figure out my life for, oh, about 22 years now. I haven’t had much success in figuring out my profession, but occasionally, I have some hefty realizations.  One came two weeks ago as I sat on a dusty linoleum floor of a classroom in Immokalee, Fla. 

In case you haven’t ever been to Immokalee or even heard of it, its population is largely made up of migrant farm workers. These people spend long days under the Sun dealing with pesticides and back-breaking work to make sickeningly low wages.

Seriously, field workers have to pick over two and a half tons of tomatoes just to earn the equivalent of Florida minimum wage for a 10-hour workday. Not only that, but when working for these crappy wages that aren’t enough to pay for housing and feed their families, they don’t know if they’ll even make it back home at night. 

There have been seven documented cases of modern day slavery in Florida since 1997 where farm workers have been held against their will, beaten, chained and even murdered. That’s just part of Immokalee’s story.

There are people in the world who think that the more friends you have and the more money you have, the better person you are. They base success on how many people you can say “hi” to on campus.

In our college atmosphere it’s easy to get caught up in this, but after spending a week working, talking and protesting with these people, we realized that there really is no correlation between money and friends and being “good.” 

These men and women got up every morning before dawn to face exploitation and even slavery for a single purpose: to support their families. 

Whether they sent what little money they made home to another country or spent it on their children right there in Immokalee, these men and women were the faces of determination and strength. They dedicate their lives to better the lives of their families and their community members.

We call ourselves at John Carroll University “men and women for others,” but are we? Sure, we do service and talk about social justice, but when we get out into the real world are we going to continue to work for others? 

Would we be willing to sacrifice that much for our friends and families or will we simply be worried about making sure we look good to others? Will we be interested in working towards a better world or will we just complain because we don’t have any ketchup in the cafeteria?

 Being men and women for others isn’t about being wealthy or poor it’s about being conscious of those around you.

 I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life, but after coming home from this Spring Break trip, I know that no matter what I end up doing my goal is to live out my title as a “woman for others.”