Over Spring Break, I had the incredible opportunity to go on a service plunge through St. John’s University Campus Ministry.
Eleven other people and I spent a week going to different service sites, such as food banks, elementary schools, and nursing homes. We got to interact with a large demographic of people: people of all ages, starting with young children and ending with elderly folk. This trip and the people I met along the way were absolutely wonderful, but most importantly, it reinforced my belief that everyone should try to go out and do service in some shape, way, or form.
It doesn’t have to be an international trip; it can be as simple as donating food to your local food pantry or spending time with elderly at a nursing home.
There are many reasons to do service, whether it be in your community or across the country. Here are seven of them!
1. The people you serve are some of the strongest you will meet.
We live in a society that marginalizes the poor, the sick, the homeless. So many people will look at the ostracized members of society and think that they’re lazy and looking for free handouts. Not only is this a harmful, offensive stereotype, but it is also the furthest thing from the truth. I’ve met some of the strongest people through service. Many of them are in unfortunate circumstances, whether they’re a young kid from a broken family or a homeless person looking for shelter, but they are strong and resilient. They are able to persist through it all and wake up every morning with a smile on their face. The fact that they never give up no matter what life throws at them is inspirational and we can learn a lot from the people who have lost it all, but still look for the good in lives and are trying their best to survive.
2. The leaders are passionate, empowering, and inspirational.
Service and volunteer coordinators are some of the most selfless, passionate people you’ll ever meet. They’re not working at their current jobs for the money, since many of them don’t make high salaries, but they’re in it because they are putting the needs of the poor and vulnerable first. They want to change people’s lives and believe everyone deserves food, water, shelter, and companionship. They are passionate about what they do and I can only aspire to have a job that, I not only love, but is as life changing and impactful as the ones they have.
3. Service brings people together.
Whether you are bonding with the other volunteers you are serving with, the participants you are serving, or the coordinators of your service organization, service brings people together and helps create deep, meaningful relationships.
4. Volunteer work is very flexible and provides you with many options.
Volunteer work is different than any other job or internship in the sense that you can design your own schedule and serve any amount of hours you are able to. As far as what types of service you can do, the possibilities are endless and there are different types of service for different types of people. You have the option to do direct service, where you are in contact with the people you serve. There are also different types of indirect service, such as donating food and clothes to different organizations, that are ideal for the typical busy student and still make an impact on the community.
5. Doing service is proven to make people happier.
There are mental rewards that come with serving others: a study conducted by the University of Illinois found that adolescents who enjoy activities, like community service, are happier. When people perform altruistic deeds and put others’ needs before their own, it ignites brain activity that reduces stress and depression. (Zhou, 2014)
6. Just one person can make a difference.
The simplest actions can have a tremendous impact on someone’s life. When you donate blood, you can save multiple lives. When you volunteer at a soup kitchen, you’re serving hot meals to people who may not be able to afford nutritious food. When you volunteer at a nursing home, you’re showing companionship and kindness to people who do not see their family very often and are longing for such. Whether you do direct or indirect, short term or long term service, you are making a difference.