Community Service: Reflecting on a Volunteer Experience
Picking up a piece of garbage off the sidewalk or saying “hello” to a friendly stranger is most certainly not the best representation of a service to the community. Maybe this is why we have to organize ourselves into action before we consider ourselves to be serving the community many of us will be calling home for four or so years.
“Community service” can be a pick-up-trash day (Berkeley Project), it can be an organize-a-walk day (Walk with a Doc), or it can be a spend-time-with-the-community night (Suitcase Clinic), but we shouldn’t exclude the smaller, individual actions we take as community members, like picking up small pieces of trash or asking that others do. Be it protesting on Sproul Plaza or flyering for a great cause, we are serving our community.
Something special about community service: its element of surprise. You could sign up to participate in a community service day (Berkeley Project), and you could find yourself in an eight-hour shift under the sun at a location you’ve never been, where you will be gardening and—for the first time—rock-climbing.
That’s how my experience went at the last Berkeley Project Day when I was stationed at a park in the north side of the city. With about 20 others, I was allowed to spend an entirely sunny day in this beautiful park that was littered with broken glass, cigarette buds, and food scraps and wrappers. We were given cleaning and beautifying tasks: pick up garbage, arrange plants, plant new plants, and get rid of weeds. These were all simple tasks that were really part of the large picture that organizations like Berkeley Project want us to not just see but also create. This picture is one of a community we could be a part of, if only we would spend a little time in it. So I spent the day with members of another community service club (WonderWorks, which presents science lessons and experiments to elementary schools), eager to create new plant life; to create new clean, glass-free soil space; to create a safer place for us, as community members, to enjoy; to create a small connection with our community. As a bonus, I had a wonderful time doing some small-scale rock-climbing, which was “at your own risk.”
We have the privilege of living in a wonderful, beautiful city, filled with diversity in culture and belief. A small service to a transient community may not seem like much, but it could be our imprint, our contribution to a place that we can always call home. We, as community members, have the power to make our community the best it can be through the smallest of gestures—we need only act!
Article by Judy Kim
Feature Image Source: GiveTeens20