“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t need to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Living and working in the service of others is, among countless things, an extremely effective method of teaching the virtues. It provides opportunity for modeling, practical application, and the deep internalization of meaning and purpose. When we serve, we not only contribute to and improve the conditions of others, but we inevitably invite them into our hearts and lives…we share ourselves with another human being and we are both touched as a result. In Peace Corps, they tell you right out of the gate that you will gain unimaginably more than you’ll be able to give. No truer words were ever spoken, for we came away from our humbling experiences with immeasurable personal growth and a greater understanding of universal human need.
We are fortunate to have so many organizations that provide such education and opportunity in this country: Peace Corps, Scouting, Americorp, Mercy Corps, Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions, Red Cross, Boys & Girls Clubs, the YMCA, schools, libraries, environmental groups, shelters, soup kitchens, and many more. It can also be as simple as helping a sick neighbor, volunteering at the local senior center or hospital, or working in a community garden.
Another unique opportunity is Global Youth Service Day, Friday, April 15, 2016. With the current US population at 323 million, there would be 3,230,000 people helping our communities at the same time if 1% of the Americans volunteered on Global Youth Service Day, or any other…imagine!
Personal Benefits of Serving
- Allows those participating to reflect on the difference they are making in society
- Gain a greater understanding of their role in the community
- Impact of their contributions towards those in need of service
- Exposure to many different kinds of people, environments, and situations
- Skills and knowledge obtained while working with the community may be applied in future areas of work
- May increase a participant’s social connectivity…and help volunteers network and connect with others towards a common goal
- A more well-rounded worldview
- Greater understanding and appreciation for diversity, other cultures and breaking down stereotypes is important to becoming a responsible citizen and better person
- Empathy for others
The beauty of service is that the vast range of virtues is employed in a single act, much like an act of kindness. It potentially encompasses: acceptance, empathy, compassion, caring, consideration, friendliness, generosity, helpfulness, humility, integrity, kindness, love, modesty, patience, sincerity, purposefulness, respect, trustworthiness, understanding, and unity. The list is inspiring in and of itself, much less attainable from one service!
In closing, your assignment this week is to find and complete one community service, revel in the joy of helping others, document it in your Gratitude Journal, and then plan your next service. Let’s never forget that ‘We are our neighbor’.