While our college selves would still agree that picking up trash along a creek constitutes giving back to the community just as much as it did back in middle school, we now strive to be part of our environment in more integral and grandiose ways.
As much as I respect those who devote their time serving in a medical clinic in Tanzania, I give equal credit to those who set aside their breaks to volunteer at the Boys & Girls Club in Los Angeles. Sure, they are two different experiences, but both share the same goal — to improve the quality of daily life for citizens in a specific area.
To hear of a person who wholeheartedly desires to improve the quality of life for another person living abroad but is not involved with a local organization that seeks volunteers is difficult for me to understand. Although I support those who desire to make an impact and experience service abroad, I am a firm believer that service begins at home. As the saying goes, you must help yourself before helping others.
So to those who have no interest in traveling abroad or simply do not have the monetary means to fund such an endeavor, you have lucked out: Your service can be as equally important and vital to the growth of your community. Volunteering as a mentor at a nearby school or setting aside a couple evenings to help out at a homeless shelter is just as critical. As troubling as it is to see the hardships in the lives of many abroad, we must not ignore the need in the communities that surround us.
Ultimately, there is a straightforward solution to this issue, which is to make a conscious decision that this is the kind of life you wish to lead — a life of service. When the choice is made to center our goals around serving, we will attain the ability to perceive compassion in individuals and importance in the way they choose to live their lives.
Taking on service projects does not solely have to be a summer break, winter break or spring break endeavor. It does not have to be exclusively abroad or local. Service is just an awareness of the impact you can have on another — whether in your studies or workplace — and a willingness to take another’s interests to heart. The smallest service is a service nevertheless.
Monica Mikhail contemplates the truth of the matter in her blog. Contact Monica Mikhail at [email protected].