“Ann Arbor? What a great college town.”

How many times have we all heard that? No doubt, it’s true. Ann Arbor is populated with an incredible variety of people; this city is built on passion, intellect and drive.

Recently I realized that the more time I spend in AA, the more I forget that. Outside of this town, it’s easy to see how it stands out. There is a type of energy at school you can’t find anywhere else. When I speak to alumni about Ann Arbor, the conversations are endless: Where do you go to eat? What shows have you seen? Sports, events, classes — everything. We will all be at the point when we eventually leave this city, (some never do, but you might) and appreciate all these elements that composed what we called home.

With two years almost completed, and only two to go, I realize there is potential to miss the point. I feel like we’re so immersed in it — whether that it is classes, clubs or relationships — it’s hard to really appreciate the vastness of this place and recognize all the opportunities here.

There are thousands of students in this city studying so many different subjects, with so many different talents and passions. It’s absolutely crucial we use that towards something. I feel like I get stuck in this routine (understandably so) of classes, clubs, friends, résumé, career … the list goes on. It takes something extra to get myself out of this mindset and recognize that I, along with many others, could be missing exactly what Ann Arbor asks us to find. Find our passion, yes. But ultimately, find its purpose.

I came across a video the other day posted by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital with SMTD Senior Christina Maxwell singing to children in the hospital. She decided to use her talent and passion for performing to brighten the day of children.

I realized then — that is exactly what we should be doing here.

You could see this forced reflection as clichéd, or maybe you think you’re already doing this. This video made me question if I really am.

Ann Arbor hands you the opportunity to find what you love, but often we see that as something applied to a career and not everyday occurrences. We should use what we’re learning, seeing and experiencing not only toward future goals, but toward what’s in front of us. Simply, to do something beyond ourselves.

Maxwell’s Friday visits to the hospital illustrate exactly what I’m talking about. It’s so easy to get fixated on everything we are committed to, and in turn lose moments we don’t even realize we had. We have a rare opportunity to be in a place that offers the ability to simultaneously learn and give. 

“What performing is about is that connection,” Maxwell said. “It’s about sharing that gift of joy, that give of love, that gift of happiness.”

The kids at Mott are so excited and happy by these Friday visits, and the musical theatre students who perform are simply doing what they love. This service isn’t some résumé booster, or way to showcase talent. It’s sharing a gift with those who need a little more joy.

I’m not telling you to drastically change your schedules to accommodate this idea. I am, however, suggesting you start recognizing the moments that are in front of you to give back. The gratification from those efforts is inexpressibly glorious, whether you are the one doing it or witnessing it.

Maxwell admitted that her Friday visits provide the best work she will ever do.

So Ann Arbor, the great college town, what else do you have to offer?

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