I know it might sound a little corny or maybe even a little self-centered, but I truly never knew how good community service can make you feel. I always felt like community service was one of those things people did just as a publicity stunt, you know? Something to boost their ego or make themselves look good in the eyes of the public. At least, that is how it seems nowadays.
We live in a society where everybody wants clicks, likes, and shares on their posts showing off the volunteering they're doing, with captions like "Check out me helping this old lady across the street" or "Look at me help feed these homeless people at the homeless shelter."
We do things because we want to be applauded for them and want recognition for the things we do, even when we claim to be doing it out of the goodness of our hearts.
Because of that, I stayed away from community service. Wrongfully, I might add, but the logic was that I did not want to get sucked into this idea that I need to help others and then show the world that I did it, waiting for all the likes and "great job" comments to add up on Instagram.
But then last weekend happened.
My college has a big annual community service event called "The Big Event," which was last weekend. It's an event coordinated by Towson University for all student organizations to go out and help locals near the university, spruce up the neighborhood, pick up trash, and more.
Now although this was required for student organizations, I participated voluntarily because this is my fraternity chapter, Delta Sigma Phi's, first year on campus. We all participated, thinking "Well, it is going to be required next year, so we might as well see what it is like."
As it turned out, a small experience changed the way I viewed myself.
As a part of community service, we had to help an elderly lady named Mrs. Beth with mulching her plants and garden areas around the yard. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong.
We had to lift bags of mulch that were at least 10 pounds apiece, spreading said mulch across her soil and evening it out so that it still kept her yard looking good. After hours and hours of mulching and raking, it seemed like we were going to be there forever.
We sort of were there forever, but I had never had so much fun doing manual labor like that.
We were out there listening to Boys To Men, which shocked me when we all agreed to listen to it. All the wisecracking also helped the time pass by. My friend Kyle kept telling us "It ain't much, but it's honest work." And honest work it was.
I really felt like I was a part of something. Like I was really meant to do something with my life.
Now I know that can sound really deep, especially coming from a story about mulching. But it is not about the mulching at all. It is about how we helped Mrs. Beth out, saved her time and energy, all while making an impression on people we pass by every day.
After we finished, she told us, "I really appreciate you guys. Without you guys, this would have taken me at least a couple of weekends."
We banded together and helped someone turn almost a month's worth a work into a one-day operation.
That was huge to me, and it really touched me in regards to my self-esteem. It showed me that just one little action I do can have such an impact on someone else's life. It honestly was one of the most enlightening experiences I have ever had.
So the next time you see a flyer to go help out at a soup kitchen or something where you can help someone else, take the opportunity. You will see just how much helping someone else can improve your outlook on yourself. It will be a worthwhile experience. I know it was for me.