Community

It’s been an extremely busy week leading up to GSCOPE. And now it’s come and gone, after a year of on-and-off preparations, leaving me to muse at how transient time is.

During the week, and especially during the two days of the conference, an entire gamut of thoughts and feelings went through me. The stakes of pulling off a successful conference was high, and among many things, I experienced anxiety, lethargy, doubt, even some kind of existential angst. But slowly, by the end of the first day of GSCOPE, one emotion overtook all others – gratitude.

Gratitude for the community and collegiality of my department and my fellow organizing committee members. Though the conference was the initiative of just a small group of graduate students in just one program of study, the department had given us amazing support. Faculty and staff stepped forward to offer advice and concrete help in saving costs. All the philosophy professors not only turned up and participated in this graduate student conference, they stayed the entire day on Friday till 9:30 p.m. And in a show of solidarity for our program and the conference, they all wore matching green “Gadflies ‘R’ Us” t-shirts! I think our conference delegates from other universities were amazed at how much support the professors showed us.

A little later, I reflected on the team I had been working with the past year. We had all taken for granted how smoothly we worked, but when I thought about it, there were plenty of things to be grateful for. Somehow, we had a team of people who all had great initiative. Ideas came forth readily, people helped each other check for ‘blind-spots’, and whenever there was something else to do, there was always somebody who very readily took it up. And these were all very busy people, some even with families… the spirit of generosity was always present.

We were fortunate to have two co-chiefs who planned the conference well, and who trusted all of us to do our respective jobs. In fact, I think there was implicit trust among all the com members that people would do their jobs well, which was why we could all do our own tasks as best we could without any unnecessary stress. And without having to talk to one another, everybody of their own accord put the conference first over personal agendas and plans – this among a group that didn’t even see each other or spend much time together. Professionalism? Yes… but also something extra.

It’s always the little things that we usually overlook that make a big difference. Trust. Support. Care. Belief. Self-sacrifice for the sake of a common goal. These are things that are not often found… and so many people seem to discount them, or choose not to give them. But over this past week, I saw so many instances of people sacrificing their time for this conference…even people who had no reason to be involved or interested, but who supported us because we were part of the department, and because they wanted us to succeed.

It’s so true. When enough people in a community give of themselves generously, putting others and a common interest before their own needs and wants, the end result is that everyone goes home richer than before. The conference was a great success. And though others can try to attribute that to successful planning, efficient organization, and even plain luck, we know better. The conference was such a success because of people who understood what being a community is all about. :)

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