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Put Your Service Foot Forward

By January 19, 2011 No Comments

By Hyo
New Organizing Project blogger

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”

This past Monday marked the 25th anniversary of the federal holiday that honors Dr. King. While many considered this Monday as an extended weekend, for others this day marked a very special day to celebrate and serve. Even President Obama and his family commemorated by volunteering while urging Americans to do the same to continue the legacy of Dr. King.

Beginning my junior year at University of Maryland, I began searching for volunteering opportunities. I often ran into the problems of not having enough time, lack of knowledge or just being afraid to try new things with people I did not know. Fortunately, as I continued on with my quest for community service, opportunities came up through friends and networks I’ve come to know. I was soon meeting other students involved in other service-oriented groups and began sharing similar ideas and opportunities to participate throughout the school year. The best part of this experience was that I was enjoying myself while participating!

So to those who think that they don’t have enough time to commit to a service project, I say with full confidence that you do. I too am a college student, work part-time, enjoy weekends with friends and still find time to volunteer. I will not however say with confidence that my record of volunteering is stellar. This is why I want to share this post with those who are on a similar boat! Here are the reasons why I choose to volunteer:

Service is simple & fun!
I was surprised when I found out what activities were considered “service”. I thought I needed to get out of my comfort zone and do things I have never done before, but its simple. It’s actually:

  1. As simple as making hundreds of PB&J sandwiches while speed dating on a college campus (The LOVE movement)
  2. Enjoyable as reading books or playing math games with elementary students at a nearby school (America Reads * America Counts)
  3. As rugged as building houses and shelters for those who lost theirs (Habitat for Humanity)

My community is bigger and more diverse than I think
This is about adventure. Take a chance at learning about other communities around you. Get to know them, learn about their issues and find time to work with them. You’ll be surprised to find out that there are more similarities than differences. Most college campuses will provide “Alternative Break” trips, where students can travel all across the nation and abroad for community services. This Spring, I’ll be staying in hostels in D.C. to learn about Human Trafficking and working for communities that help out the victims with other students.

It’s a great way to learn about myself
Service projects provide perfect settings for me to shift focus from myself to others. While mentoring, I was encouraged to put myself in my mentee’s shoes to help them learn difficult concepts more easily. It is harder than what I say, but through working for others I’ve learn to at least consider what they need instead of what I want.

A great way to meet new people without feeling pressure
I’m not exactly a social butterfly. I take time to open up and often find meeting new people nerve wracking. I’m sure this is the case for most people. When you participate in a service project, people tend to approach others relaxed and with an open mind. So if you are looking for ways to meet people with genuine interests, I say volunteering is a way to go.

A perfect way give my life a fresh perspective to appreciate what I have
You meet new people every time you volunteer. I recall one experience when I traveled to New Orleans a year after Hurricane Katrina. I went with a group of friends to work in St. Bernard Parish to build and gut houses that were destroyed by the hurricane. I was blown away by the group of people that came to help out. They weren’t just from the U.S. but also from abroad, all with diverse backgrounds. While experiencing and seeing the devastation, we all gained, shared and appreciated life and the opportunity to help out.

We all have our reasons for volunteering or abstaining from it. Whatever your reason may be, I think we all have room to reconsider and refocus our objectives about service. It doesn’t have to be big or a popular cause. Your service for others could be as simple as cleaning up after yourself or opening a door for someone.

So what will you do today for someone else?

For more info about Dr. King and what others all across the nation are doing throughout the year, go visit www.MLKday.gov

Other ways to look for service projects: