Last autumn, I came to terms with the fact that I will never progress past my tomboy ways, and succumbed to the urge to dress as Michelangelo, the orange ninja turtle, for Halloween.
Soon after this revelation, the anticipation of such an awesome costume began to cut into my sleeping, so I called my mother. Neglecting to realize that it was two in the morning, I was startled to hear the standard-suburban-mother response.
“ARE YOU DEAD?”
I kindly reminded my mother that the deceased had slightly different phone etiquette, and asked “Mom, do you know where I could find some numchucks?”
It is a mother’s job to expect the unexpected when dealing with a 20-year-old daughter. Yet, nothing could prepare her to hear that mommy’s little girl not only idolizes Michelangelo, but is impersonating him for a holiday that she should be too mature to enjoy in the first place.
So, why put these childhood figures on a pedestal? To say that the plotline is cliché would be a substantial understatement. Still, beneath cookie-cutter morals, and yes, even beneath the numchucks, were just a bunch of mutants trying to make the abrasive atmosphere of New York City a bit more pleasant.
While I was proud of my costume, I had yet to reach the apex of my what-would-Michelangelo-do mentality, until now. Recently, I had the privilege of combining my love for pizza with a similar passion for giving back to the community. I was not battling a villain, or fighting crime. I was simply dining on a piece of Lou Malnati’s deep-dish cheese pizza.
Since the fall of 1995, this well known pizza chain has been working on a non-profit basis in Lawndale. Unlike any other Lou Malnati’s restaurant, all profits are put back into education and recreation for the local youth. The goal for the Malnati family is simple: to aid in restoring this west-side community that has not recovered from the 1967 riots. The restaurant is located on Ogden Avenue, and is a short walk from the Pulaski blue line stop.
Now I could go on in unfathomable detail about the delectable deep dish, but that is beside the point. Considering a mere piece of pizza can have a positive impact on an entire community, I cannot help but cringe when my peers refuse to devote minimal time and energy to benefit various areas of Chicago. In some cases, they even fail to be cognizant of issues existing outside their immediate environment. To say that a piece of pizza constitutes adequate philanthropy would be a careless oversimplification. Nonetheless, if there is any truth to the cliché image of an intoxicated college student inhaling an entire pizza, as young people we can put a positive spin on this benign stereotype.
In considering the term community, many conjure up images of their local surroundings. However, I take pride in the fact that Chicago is a composite of many different neighborhoods. Still, this pride induces accountability, and as a result, I feel driven to lend my energy contributing to the eclectic character of Chicago. Many may look at volunteering or even going on an adventure for pizza one afternoon, as idealistic or even futile measures. Still, history has shown us that significant movements can take centuries to show any signs of slight alterations. So, why do we refuse to apply similar patience to our own personal efficacy?
There are many aspects in Chicago and throughout the world that I take issue with: hunger, homelessness, education inequality, adult illiteracy, to name a few. However, I do not feel entirely comfortable complaining about any societal flaw unless I am actively involved in rectifying them. It would be asinine to imply that all students should be donating time and money to every cause that they deem significant. Instead, students should make it a priority to educate themselves on these issues, so they will be better equipped to contribute to their solution. Too often, my peers act as if they are simply entitled to their disillusionment, but I feel like I need to earn the right to intelligently critique the world around me through civic engagement.
In the immortal words of Michelangelo, “This will be a piece of cake. Or even better: a slice of pizza!” Oftentimes we forget that one individual cannot solve a societal issue. Much like Miss America, we can all ponder world peace, but we can by no means implement it. Instead, we need to emphasize small-scale changes that encourage community improvement, in order to develop self-sustaining, yet unique neighborhoods. Many may choose to think of me as an idealist, and that is fair, but just remember to refer to me as idealist with numchucks.