Until recently, I hadn’t done much community service. In fact, I did nothing to benefit anyone but myself. My selfishness and laziness were apparent when I received an assignment from my teacher. Each student was required to complete 10 hours of community service with proof of completion. To me, 10 hours was an enormous amount of time to spend helping others. As I reflect now on my feelings, I am ashamed of my selfishness. Volunteering, for me, has been a truly life-changing experience. It is amazing how greatly my time and effort were appreciated by others. While I did several activities to complete my hours, there was one project that really changed my life.
My mom suggested that I organize a food drive in our development and donate what I collected to a local shelter. Anything that would help finish the project seemed like a good idea, so I agreed. I made up flyers asking for donations of non-perishable items (to be placed at the end of each driveway the day of the drive) and placed flyers at every house in my neighborhood.
As the food drive approached, I was thinking about how I would have to sacrifice my day to collect everything and deliver it to the shelter. I then reached into our pantry to get a can of soup for lunch and reality struck hard when I realized that some people can’t just reach for a can of food whenever they are hungry. It was those people who would be helped by this simple food drive. That was the moment I started caring about others and became determined to have a successful food drive.
I was getting ready to retrieve the cans from my neighbors’ yards on the day of the food drive when all of a sudden it started to pour. Rain flooded the roads and wind whipped the trees, but I was determined to complete my task. My mom drove me around our development and I jumped out at every house to collect the items people had put out. After travelling through the neighborhood, I asked my mom to first bring the goods back to our house before we delivered them to the shelter because they were soaked from the rain and I wanted to dry everything off.
When we finally arrived at the shelter, I was a little nervous because I had never been there before. The woman in charge was extremely grateful for the donations and said that the world would be a better place if more people thought of others every now and then. I was happy to help others by organizing the food drive and delighted that my service to the community would make a difference in peoples’ lives.
As I was leaving the shelter, a man asked if I were the one who had brought all the food. I shyly nodded and he said, “Around here, you are a hero.” From that point on, I made myself a promise that I would serve the community more often, even when it was not required. Any way I can help others is worth the time, even if takes 10 hours.
I want to make the food drive for that shelter an annual event. During my first food drive, I collected 150 items and probably would have gotten more if it had not been raining. Through this school assignment, I have realized that caring for others is an important part of living and the world would be a completely different place if people didn’t help those who are less fortunate.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.