Ideals into Action

October 29, 2007

M.H., 3L

I’ve learned a lot of things since I began law school. I’ve learned many things from traditional classroom lectures, but I’ve learned just as much from my experiences outside of class.

I now know that New Haven is a dynamic place with many different people. Yale’s location near the center of downtown places it in the middle of all the hustle of a small city. On any given walk to class, I walk by business professionals, professors, students, citizens doing their shopping, and even homeless people. Coming from a small, “Pleasantville-like” suburban hometown and college community, these interactions with the less fortunate have tended to make me uncomfortable. However, these brief departures from my comfort zone provided as much of a learning experience as anything that has happened in a classroom, as they have motivated me to take action. New Haven’s small size and great need make it easy to put ideals into action and make a difference in the community. I am hoping to be that difference.

In my first year of law school, I began regularly volunteering at a weekly soup kitchen sponsored by my church. At first, I was happy to help with the food preparation, set-up, and clean up, but I was a little bit reluctant to interact with the guests at the soup kitchen. This reluctance did not really come from a sense of fear, but more from a feeling of guilt for being more fortunate than most of the people that frequented the soup kitchen. I wasn’t sure what I would say to the guests or how they would react to me. Over time, I’ve become much more comfortable talking to the guests and even come to look forward to seeing them on Wednesday afternoons. I’ve learned the names of many of the regulars and had many informative conversations about the history of New Haven, Yale football, and other topics too numerous to list.

I had always considered myself to be a community-minded person. I participated in many fundraisers and social programs, but most of my activities tended to be one step removed from actually interacting with the people that the programs benefited. Coming to New Haven allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and put my ideals into practice in a way that has given me a better perspective on life and helped me to better understand how the law I’m studying in class impacts the lives of individuals.