Among all the requirements imposed on students in my school over the past few years, there is one that I thoroughly like (and I feel that it is an excellent idea): Community Service. Prior to graduation, all students must give at least 36 hours of their time to the community.
At first, I must admit, I didn't like the idea of forced community service. After all, isn't one supposed to give back to the community out of the goodness of one's heart - not because a person has to or they face a penalty? Doesn't it defeat the purpose of volunteer work if one is actually forced to volunteer?
But, like many things in life, this experience changed my mind about this requirement. The more I did, the more my views began to change. I realized that most people want to give of themselves for a good cause, but, when push comes to shove, they just don't. Usually this is due to lack of time or real motivation. I could categorize myself this way. I have always wanted to volunteer for charities, but I simply never got around to it. This program gave me that extra motivation I needed to stop being so complacent and to start thinking about others.
Not only did the program give me real motivation, but it provided me with many great opportunities. Where you volunteer is entirely your choice.
Looking back on my experiences, I can see that it really changed me in a very positive way. It taught me to give of myself and be happy doing it, and that sometimes it's important to put the needs of others before your own. My first job was co-teaching an Arts and Crafts class for grades K through 12. I chose this because I love art, and kids. And, boy, were there kids! But they were all fantastic. I think I had just as much fun as they did, maybe even more. Hey - I was doing something I love, and others were learning from me. What could be better?
My second experience with community service was at Franciscan Children's Hospital, a center in Brighton, Massachusetts which provides care for physically handicapped children. Once a week during the summer, I helped the staff with anything they needed. I tried to make myself as useful as possible. I cleaned up after patients, did filing, paperwork, answered phones, or just talked to the young patients. It was a cool experience. My work made me realize that there are so many kids less fortunate than I, and that I should count my many blessings.
I began to appreciate more and more the gift of my complete health. After seeing what some of these kids have to go through, I will never again take good health for granted. What's more, the work gave me an excellent idea of what course I want to pursue in life. I originally started at Franciscan because I thought medicine was interesting. But it showed me that being a physician really is so much more than just science and diagnoses: it's one-on-one interaction with patients; it's challenging work; it's problem-solving, and one of the most rewarding professions there is. It convinced me that medicine would be a great field for me.
All in all, the person who benefited the most from my hours of volunteer work were not the kids in my class, or the patients at the hospital, but it was me. I discovered an entirely new perspective on my life by working with a variety of individuals. Community service gave me a sense of pride, of self-satisfaction that I could be of help to others. It even helped me decide on what I want to do with my life! The benefits of community service are plenty. So, to all you reading this, do community service for others, but do it for yourself as well! fl
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.