COMMUNITY

Top prize in ‘Philotimo’ competition goes to Massachusetts high-school senior

TAGS: Diaspora

The Washington Oxi Day Foundation, a nonprofit focused on commemorative events promoting Greek culture and history, has announced the winners of its Philotimo Scholarship Competition, in which it asked Greek-American students across the United States to describe the Greek word “philotimo.”

With more than 70 entries submitted, the winner is Lindsey Arruda, a high school senior in Somerset, Massachusetts. Arruda will receive a $2,000 scholarship and attend the Foundation’s ninth Annual Oxi Courage Awards Gala at the US Institute of Peace in Washington on October 24.

“Philotimo is an elusive word, yet it is known to all Greeks, young and old... Its meaning is defined by the actions and good deeds shown to others, while expecting nothing in return,” she wrote in her essay.

Sharing second place and each slated to receive a $1,000 scholarship are Rafaella Foteni Lambrinos, a high-school sophomore in Freehold, New Jersey, and Melina Piperis a high-school sophomore in Omaha, Nebraska. The two third-place winners, with a $500 scholarship, are Michaela Gregoriou of Massachusetts and Dimitrios June, an eighth grader in Seal Beach, California.

Here is Lindsey Arruda's winning essay:

Philotimo is an elusive word, yet it is known to all Greeks, young and old. It transcends race, religion and culture. Its meaning is defined by the actions and good deeds shown to others, while expecting nothing in return. Philotimo resides within all of us and has the power to protect, preserve and to heal human life.

Philotimo was present on Zakynthos on September 9, 1943 when Mayor Karrer and Archbishop Chrysostomos were ordered by a Nazi commander to provide a list of all Jews living on the island. Rather than betray their Jewish neighbors, they chose to protect them from imminent death by hiding them with Greek villagers living high up in the mountains. The next day the list they presented to the Nazis contained only two names, their own.

As I write this,17 refugee boats have once again reached the shores of Lesvos and my friends Maria, Thanasi, Kosta, and Omar are preparing to help preserve the lives of those onboard. This is not new to any of them, for they have done this countless times before. And even as their tiny island is stretched to its limits by the influx of refugees and limited resources, they still gather to bring them to safety. This is the essence of what it means to have philotimo. It is putting the needs of others before your own, without consideration to how it could impact your own life.

But one need not go halfway around the world to find philotimo. It was present in my own community when they rallied around my beloved 14 yo cousin Jonny, as he battled a rare form of leukemia. From fundraisers to pay for medical bills to Christmas cards to help lift his spirits, philotimo helped heal him. Multiple chemo treatments, one bone marrow transplant and a whole lot of philotimo later, Jonny is in remission, back at school and spreading his own philotimo by serving as an ambassador for the children’s Tomorrow Fund.

Being raised in a Greek American household, we are taught from a very early age that philotimo is something that you do simply because it’s the right thing to do. When two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon finish line, it was fate that led us to oversleep and miss our annual family tradition of cheering on the runners near that very same spot. But it was the quiet voice of philotimo, that compelled us to help the victims by raising funds. It was that same resounding beat of philotimo that then prompted us to create our own nonprofit charity in hopes of helping just a few more people. Those few more people, turned into hundreds, then thousands more.

Philotimo has been my constant source of inspiration as I strive to be the best human that I can possibly be. I believe this innate sense of philotimo present within all of us has the power to change the world. At a time of so much tragedy and strife, we should all look to philotimo for examples of how we can be more kind and decent to one another.

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