I was lucky enough to leave the arctic region of New Hampshire and go south for the last week of my winter break. Well, I'm kinda kidding about that. Yes, I did go south, but it was not warmer than NH by any significant degrees. On January 4th I was seated on a plane with 13 other Saint Anselm students (all wearing matching shirts, a little embarrassing) heading to Washington D.C. However, we were not a traveling sports team or a politics club as many people assumed. We were all going to the same place in order to do a week of community service. Saint A's Winter Break Alternative (WBA) program sends students throughout the country for the last week of Christmas vacation to spend time performing service and living in solidarity with the ones being served. In my group's case, we were en route to an international hostel and had plans of spending the next seven days working with the homeless and hungry of the city.
During our week-long stay we were able to work with both young people and the elderly, homeless people and volunteers, lonely people and community service program directors. I can certainly say that I left NH expecting to have a fulfilling week, but I left D.C. feeling more humbled and blessed than I could have ever imagined. One of the most meaningful and genuinely honest encounters I had during the week was with a man named Steve. Steve was one of the many people that attended the free community dinner that our group hosted at the Youth Service Organization Program. After sharing many details of his personal life, including his aspirations, worries and struggles, Steve said to me, in complete non-judgmental-innocence: "I think it's great what your group is doing."
"One day, when I have enough money, I hope I can help people too. I bet it makes you feel good." This statement, though brief, hit me hard. Service is something I believe many people do, perhaps subconsciously, to make themselves feel good. We want that feel-good rush that comes along with helping someone in need. However, oftentimes service is simply a band-aid. Perhaps you did provide a meal to someone who was hungry, or listen to someone who was living in loneliness, but that is temporary. This WBA trip, with great thanks to my conversation with Steve, taught me that community service is a blessing. I can't honestly say that I don't like the happiness it gives me to know I am helping someone else, but I discovered I should get my priorities straight. I think now, my new goal is to help people feel like they can make a difference, regardless of their situation. Service is something I want to make attainable to everyone.
So yes, I guess that's a big goal to just throw at you on a Thursday afternoon. But it's something to think about. Why do we do service? And how can we spread that feel-good vibe to those we serve? I can not describe how much fun I had on WBA and what a wonderful experience it was. It is something I would recommend to everyone at St. A's. Happy spring semester!