Despite all the different applications and celebrations revolving around the so frequently spoken word, the idea of service basically boils down to this: one person helping another person.
At our school, every varsity sport is required to take part in some kind of “service” during their season. There are not many other places where a person could catch a glimpse of hundreds of students sprinting to add clubs like Key Club and Interact to their resume.
Sitting back and looking at all this, it makes you wonder, why is “service” so important? Why do students feel the need to quickly sign into a club meeting and then leave, just so they can get some “points?”
Here’s a quick news flash for anyone who didn’t know this already: “points” are meaningless. Adding yet another type of “service” to your resume is meaningless. The real meaning isn’t behind “being a member” or being able to say “I participated.” The place where you find meaning in volunteering is in the action and impact you make in someone else’s life.
Just like how Consumer Ed and Driver’s Ed are learning requirements to graduate, service is a learning requirement for life. Service requirements within varsity sports and from colleges are in place so that as we go into the real world, we understand the importance behind helping a brother out when they are in need.
Living in the North Shore bubble makes it difficult to see this in our everyday lives. Habitat for Humanity, a summertime service learning retreat, allowed me to escape this bubble and get a glimpse into the lives of people outside our area.
Taking place in Manistique, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we got a glimpse into a whole new world. A place where the nearest Starbucks is a state over (sorry North Shore girls). A place where everyone says, “Hello, how are you?” and actually wants to know the answer. A place where a neighbor’s heart is only a knock away.
Grateful faces and tear-stained thank yous filled the entire week as we scraped and painted a family’s home under the hot sun. As is the case with many people, the homeowner was an expert at hiding his need for help. If we weren’t already giving them a hand, we never would have known they needed it.
This gift of 148 hours was not something we could have bought or something we worked to earn: this gift was from our very own bank account of time. Just seeing the smiling face of Ilyana, the homeowners’ four year-old daughter, on the last day assured me that it was time well spent. Shaking the homeowner’s hand and seeing the gratitude in his eyes let me know that I really had made a difference.
That week in Manistique helped me realize that it is the impact you make in other people’s lives that defines your own life.
Most of, if not all, the memories we hold precious to us in 40 years will be memories involving other people. The relationships and connections we build with these people in our lives make it so meaningful. The impact your life has radiates out to create something much bigger than yourself.
As Proverbs 11:30 tells us, while none of us will live on this Earth forever, our actions towards others will. When we help someone, it inspires action; this action leads to more action. And the seeds of good deeds that we have planted in the world, sprout into the trees of life.
So next time your coach brings up that mandatory service project or before you sign up for Interact just for the T-Shirt, remember this: just because we are young doesn’t mean we can’t make an impact in someone’s life. What we learn from service is what allows us to truly grow up.