Community Service: Some Clarity

When thinking of community service, some initial words may cross people’s minds. These words may include the following: charity, time consuming, helping others, demanding, soup kitchen, boring, and a good cause but time consuming. There’s very rarely, if anyone at all, who thinks ill of giving back to their community. In fact, there are plenty of decent people who love doing such works and may even dedicate their career and lives to it. The flip side is there are plenty of decent people who do almost the opposite, for various reasons. Let’s face it, they are not always the most genuine or honest reasons. Few deny the importance of community service and helping those less fortunate, yet it’s not exactly the activity of choice for a group of friends to plan their weekend around. I believe that everyone has their reasons and priorities, but some of the feelings towards community service are based on misconceptions of what service truly is. So let’s have a moment of clarity.

Community service is not all that time consuming. There’s perhaps a common image of community service being a job you don’t get paid for.  Either a lot of your time is going into the specific event or you’re not doing enough, so why bother? The thing to remember about community service is there are numerous ways to go about it, and the time you choose to dedicate may find itself just as numerous. While some people enjoy putting in service hours that take up the whole day, that hardly makes it the only option. Some service events can take 5 hours from when it starts to when it ends, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay for 5 hours. Stay for 3 hours, or 1 hour, a half hour if you’re busy. Both the people hosting and benefitting from a community service project respect and appreciate your time, no matter how small. While dedication of time is sometimes an indicator of dedication to the cause, the fact you dedicate anything is appreciated more than realized.

Community service is not all that demanding either. This is separate from time consumption because being time consuming deals more with fitting some service into the schedule for the day. By demanding, I mean not just the amount of time dedicated to a service project but how often someone participates in general. This feeds into the job image. So what if you give back once or twice; if you feel it’s not substantial, then what’s the point? The thing about your time is that it is your time. If you simply cannot commit some time because there are other things in your life going on, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you would rather sleep, that’s just as well, because why help out if you’re physically unable because you purposefully deprived yourself?  One of the best ways to prepare for community service is to take care of you first. Dedicate time to your community when appropriate, not blindly. Plan ahead, fit it in the schedule, spend some time towards community service every so often and let it build into something substantial if that’s what you’re looking for. Don’t manifest a pessimistic or apathetic attitude towards service because you let yourself feel like you’re not doing enough; if it’s that important, don’t be afraid to make the time.

Community service comes in as many shapes as it does sizes. This is probably the key misconception that’s less misconception and more just something not often considered. If you can’t somewhat enjoy how you spend your time, why spend it in such a way? The thing about it is you very easily can. Community service isn’t limited to simple preconceptions: give some blood, spend some time with an older folk, run a marathon, find a cause, help family or friends with what they need because you care, spot something that stands out to you and your tastes and interests, start a service project yourself. There are countless ways to help those who need it more than you, and why do it alone? Bring a friend or two, make it an outing. Meet some new people, make a friend. There are so many different ways to serve your community; after all, that’s all community service really is, so it leaves a lot of room for options.

Community service is important because, at the end of the day, the only one who may help your community the most is you. Community service is not a job you don’t get paid for; it’s helping out with and even creating opportunities for the betterment of those around you. Not everything may be put on a resume, or is always what you’d like to do the most, but the options with which you may dedicate your time towards others are as various as the amount of time you may choose to put in. There are personal benefits to servicing others: satisfaction, furthering your own goals, etc. When it comes down to it however, serving others includes you, but is not just about you.

–Kristopher Jordan-Taylor Johnson

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