"Inconveniences"- A "This I believe" Analysis
Sullivan’s untitled essay is a reflection on how someone’s small efforts can have an enormous effect on another’s happiness. Sullivan begins her reflection by stating “I believe in always going to the funeral” and by explaining that, as a child, her father had to force her to attend funerals. At the age of 16, she attended a funeral for a teacher and began to see the meaning of her father’s words. She writes of her shock that her embarrassed and clumsy profession of sorrow meant so much for the family of her teacher. Since then, Sullivan adopted the motto of “always going to the funeral” and began to view it as meaning that she should make an effort to do the small but inconvenient things in life (such as attending a birthday party few will attend or visiting someone in the hospital) because they mean so much to others.
Sullivan’s essay is powerful yet easy to relate to. Sullivan’s choice of writing of herself initially as a child allows readers to connect to her and see the development of her belief, which is more convincing than if she were to preach an elaborately constructed belief with no obvious basis in real-life. Also, she focuses on death- a topic that many Americans avoid due to sadness, fear of mortality, or embarrassment. Choice of a sensitive topic allows Sullivan to connect to readers in a more emotional and more open manner. Sullivan writes of funerals sensitively yet realistically- she admits that most readers, like her, do not always want to attend. This gives her writing a very human and universal perspective, and allows her to explain, without preaching, the benefit of making an effort.
I chose Sullivan’s essay because I felt that it truly illuminates the good in human nature in a realistic and humble matter. At the end of her essay, Sullivan describes her father’s funeral and states that she witnessed “the most human, powerful and humbling” sight when she saw that the church was full during the workday on a Wednesday. The funeral attendees all fought the “convenient” path to make time to attend the funeral, and it is very evident how meaningful that was for Sullivan. I often feel that I live my life by doing only what is necessary and convenient, and I’m sure many American’s can attest that they’ve also fallen into this habit. I also remember a similar story from when I was younger- how my parents coaxed me to hug my grandmother at the funeral of her mother. Initially, I didn’t want to because I was embarrassed and didn’t feel comfortable with how vulnerable I felt. However, after I did, I was very glad because I feel that it meant so much for my grandma and I felt like I had grown closer to her. Sullivan also states that “the daily battle [of my life] hasn’t been good versus evil. It’s hardly so epic. Most days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing.” I think that this message relates to the message of this course- by viewing every small action as having a potentially large amount of weight in the world, people can make a difference. I believe that this essay gives great advice on living your life with purpose without needing to mention religion, philosophy, or culture because it focuses on elements of human nature that everyone is familiar with.