I will be the first to admit that volunteering is not my strong suit. Since the start of my time at Xavier, I can probably count the number of times I have spent helping others on one hand, a track record I am definitely not proud of.
This weekend was one of the few times that I decided to make something of Saturday and give back. With packed cars and optimistic dispositions, a small group of students traveled to Matthew 25: Ministries this weekend for an afternoon of service.
Since then I have been pondering why I do not commit more of my time to service or volunteering in the community. It is not something that is foreign to me. I completed all sorts of service requirements in high school and prior, and the resulting gratification has not been forgotten.
As I was sorting through medical supplies for disaster aid relief, the same sense of fulfillment and a renewed purpose struck me again. I know that service is good for me, good for others and good for our world. But quite honestly, at the end of a grueling week with multiple 15+ hour days, service is the last thing I want to do.
This internal conflict I suppose represents the dichotomy of many life choices: what is right and what is easy. Perhaps it is selfish of me to want to do nothing with my spare time, but I also know that relaxation is needed for my mental wellbeing. But does that make me an awful person?
As both a Catholic and a human being, I know that service should really be at the top of the priority list. If we are going to put our money where our mouths are as Jesuits, then we are meant to be people for and with others who must go out into the community to serve.
According to the latest statistics by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a mere 30.3% of Americans performed some type of service in 2018. This number is significantly higher than the previously recorded volunteer rate of 24.9% in 2016. It is disheartening to think that only one in three people volunteered to some degree.
As a part of the experience at Matthew 25, a tour guide led volunteers through a modest museum that demonstrates the extent of poverty and suffering at home and abroad. It was a humble reminder that there are so many little things in life which we take for granted: clean water, a place to eat at almost any hour of the day, a warm bed to lie in at night.
Our flawed campus is paradise compared to the slums of India where people live in literal piles of trash, and I believe that we too often forget that. If anything, service reminds us that we need to be grateful for what we have, and that a little bit of our time can go a long way in impacting another’s life.
So, if like me you are not the best at volunteering, I encourage you to just do it. For me (and I would guess many other busy people) a good time for volunteering is not going to come. There will always be one more thing that gets in the way. Taking time for your mental wellbeing is undoubtedly an important way to decompress, but instead of doing nothing every Saturday, devote a little bit of time once a month or every other week to giving back.
This world is bursting at its seams in more ways than one. It is our responsibility as humans to do our part in reversing the damage we have done and take action to help those who are directly affected by the shortcomings of others. I challenge myself and every person who reads this to do just a little bit more.