by H. L., Brockton, MA
Five years ago, when I was in sixth grade, my aunt was my one and only role model. Everything she had, I wanted; everything she did, I would have loved to do. At this time, she was working for a non-profit organization known as Self-Help, Inc. One day, she asked me if I'd be interested in working with her. Eager to develop a closer relationship, I jumped at the opportunity. That Saturday, we arrived at a local elementary school close to eight o'clock in the morning. I was surprised to see many people in line at the door. After we entered the building, I quickly learned how the process worked: when the people in need entered the school, they told one of the volunteers at the first station their address, number of people in their home and social security number. Then, the recipient signed a paper and the volunteer handed them a ticket. The person then took the ticket to station two where another volunteer distributed government-donated food. I understood the system completely and was quickly put to work filling bags of food. I learned that community service wasn't always simple. Soon I was exhausted, but I kept working. When the day was through, I really felt like I'd made a difference in those people's lives. I decided community service wasn't that bad.
Three months later, my aunt asked if I'd like to volunteer again. I agreed. That Saturday morning I was put to work at station one. I feared that I would not be able to understand these citizens who had difficulty speaking English. However, I found there was no reason to worry because every time I had a problem, another volunteer would help me. This experience also proved to be rewarding because I left feeling rather altruistic.
For the last five years, I have done community service with Self-Help every three months. In this time, I have learned that although most of the people who volunteer are entirely kind and generous, it is important to have someone who is strict so some recipients don't take advantage of the agency's benevolence. Furthermore, I've learned how to deal calmly with non-English speaking people and also acquired some basic communicating skills.
There are many advantages to volunteering. It shows you how fortunate you are, especially when you help the less fortunate. Community service also teaches you how to be more caring, patient and selfless. For these reasons and my past experiences, I feel that community service is an activity that everyone should do, whether to boost their own confidence or increase someone else's.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.