Community Service for Service Sake

With the teen summer programs abroad just around the corner and another season of VISIONS nearly here, we are acutely aware of all the details that go into each program. With so many practical logistics filling our minds, it is important to pause and ask ourselves some of the broad and important questions. What does community service mean? Why do we spend time engaging in and promoting it? As individuals, how do we benefit from service? How can we most effectively facilitate an experience that is rewarding and eye-opening for all involved?

Reflecting on these questions each year, I always arrive at the same answers. For me, the community service I participate in is about me. It is about the giving of my self, the sense of accomplishment I have from doing the work, the feeling I get from doing for others, what I learn about people and the place, and the reward of working in and for community. Service is giving of myself without expectation of return.

I do not believe that community service is about thank you’s or accolades, about acknowledgement or appreciation. Instead, I believe that service is its own gift and its own reward. Service for service’s sake, for the simple fact that we are all human, and perhaps the most human thing we can endeavor to do is to share ourselves and help one another.

Over the years, I have learned that each summer service journey I take must be about me. In this way I am never disappointed. I am never doing service for what I believe are the wrong reasons. I am only present in each moment, giving of myself and taking reward from that.

I am not seeking an expected response from others. I am not expecting something in return. I am giving all that I have to give because I enjoy it, because it makes me feel good, because it helps me learn and grow. I am doing this because it makes me fully human. It is all I can do in this world. It is the only true gift that I have to give.

VISIONS in The New York Times