Ethical Dilemma - Visiting My Grandmother

Essay Prompt

Members of the Caltech community live, learn, and work within an Honor System with one simple guideline; 'No member shall take unfair advantage of any other member of the Caltech community.' While seemingly simple, questions of ethics, honesty and integrity are sometimes puzzling. Share a difficult situation that has challenged you. What was your response, and how did you arrive at a solution? (200 word max)

Sample Essay

When I was eleven years old, my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and very rapidly became a stranger to me. She went from being an encouraging and funny grandmother who couldn’t wait to see me to an anxious and critical woman who didn’t even remember she’d seen me before.

My father, her son, stopped visiting her once her doctors told him that visits from family wouldn’t really make a difference to her since she didn’t recognize any of us. Nonetheless, I have chosen to continue visiting my grandmother, largely because I felt I should show her the kindness she had shown me. So for the last six years, I have visited her every other day. Some days are good days and she is easy to be around even though she doesn’t recognize me and I can only find glimmers of the woman I knew her to be. Most days she is agitated and lost. Those are very hard for me, but I still stay and sit with her for a while and go back again in two days time.

Visiting my grandmother, the stranger, has taught me that all relationships are sustained through small gestures of kindness. Kindness has honor.

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