Give acceptance to earn acceptance


Photo Courtesy of Danny Oster

Danny Oster and his friend, JD Rodriguez.

By Brandon Zegiel

When I arrived at the entrance of Nugent Hall, nothing struck me as different about it. It contained lounge areas for students to watch movies and socialize, along with various hallways giving way to dorm rooms.

But, on Super Bowl Sunday, the environment I walked into was much different. The national championship was very exciting, and many were packed into lounges, waiting to see the next crowned champion. I saw the New England Patriots’ victory with a man named Danny Oster in part of the building where not too many people have access.

Oster is a hardworking student who belongs to the University’s James Scholar Program. He currently majors in English and is making his way to becoming a successful writer. There is no doubt he is a man among boys academically, but there’s something more Oster must face. An inner conflict that makes life difficult at times, threatening to push him back.

Due to a car accident before birth, Oster was born with a pre-birth brain condition referred to as cerebral palsy. Oster currently lives in a hall specifically designed for individuals who face physical disabilities. He has a personal assistant who looks after him throughout the semester. He cannot walk without assistance due to the condition.

Oster gave me a tour of his dorm, introducing me to his friends and parents in the process. There was no judging among the students in this part of the building. Each student we talked to personally knew Oster and seemed to genuinely care about him.

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    His parents were unexpected. Oster and I were initially in the dining hall when his mother called, letting him know they would be dropping by. Danny hesitated at first but kindly said we would meet up with them. He admitted to me that he had no idea his parents would be stopping by.

    By the time we got to his dorm room, his parents were waiting for us. They had brought him a care package in person, Insomnia Cookies included. And while what they brought was quite thoughtful, the whole act made me think about how important Danny is to his mother and father. 

    We started talking about texting, where he told me about his best friend in high school: a star quarterback of the Batavia Bulldogs. The conversation was very loose, and for his confidentiality, I didn’t record it because some of the information was meant to stay in that specific moment. Danny started to tear up, telling me that his friendship diminished from high school with him, blaming himself for a misunderstanding between them.

    When Oster spoke of his inner conflict, I originally thought it would be about his cerebral palsy. But, he seemed to love the spotlight in the hall he lived in, and when his parents appeared, it was clear he loved them. He was happy.

    Oster went on to tell me that he felt the people he communicated with on a daily basis wouldn’t initiate a conversation with him. He felt he was obligated to initiate a conversation, otherwise people wouldn’t talk to him. In the case of the quarterback story, he felt he had to start the conversation of forgiveness if they were to ever talk again.

    I responded with the fact that I do the opposite to people. I refuse to text them sometimes because I’m scared they will be annoyed. Oster and I both concluded that we care what others think.

    But the idea of caring about others’ opinions is important. I went on to say that we cannot possibly live life without caring what others think. It is an important part of feeling content with ourselves and comfortable in our shoes. He nodded in response.

    Oster went on to speak about pity. He hated the word, especially when people talked to him just because they felt they needed to.

    It must be hard to tell the difference between pity and friendliness. People seem to always have the right intentions, but the reasons for their intentions are sometimes quite blurry.

    Oster and I are very alike, at least from the interview notes I have. The conversation we had went on throughout the rest of the Super Bowl, as we watched the Falcons get tossed around defensively by the Brady Bunch in overtime.

    Friendship is important. Danny and I concluded that very quickly. After finishing the interview, we both found the importance in accepting others and their inner conflicts and how we all need that acceptance to be truly happy with ourselves.

    Brandon is a sophomore in LAS.

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