(Noun) a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. The key feature of this simple definition is “common.” The characteristics, qualities, traits, and interests that people share with others inside and outside of their community are what build relationships throughout society. This relationship between people proves the powerful connection one can have with anyone they come in contact with no matter his or her social status. Those who never use their hands as tools of service, lose their opportunity to build these relationships. As I have learned in my lifetime to use my hands to serve those in need, I have come to realize, that I need them, just as much as they need me.
Going into a community service project, many do not expect to receive anything in return; that is typically the way these projects work. The volunteers give their time and effort for the benefit of others, not sell it. The lesson volunteers receive far surpasses any tangible payment one may get in exchange. Over the last seven years, I have completed close to 700 hours of community service and the qualities that I have developed because of these hours have been priceless. Learning that while yes, I am often physically and financially “better off” than the ones I have served, the journeys these people have been on require more strength and perseverance than I could ever hope to have. From serving people within their homes, to serving those who have no home, the essence of each individual are no less than the ones of you or me.
As I have become more aware of the people in my community and the great diversity within it, I have seen –marked in difference— the common thread of humanity. I have seen an out-pouring of generosity through all different kinds of people. This has not only shown me the ability everyone has to give to others, but the genuine hearts of those who are so much less fortunate than I am. Most would think gratefulness comes with riches and possessions however this is not always true. When people have less, they often realize that the little they have is something to be truly grateful for. While what they have is not much, their possessions do not define who they are as a person. Seeing the attitudes of the people I have served over the years, and knowing I have never come close to experiencing what they have over their lives, has taught me to not only have more generosity, but be more thankful for what I have been truly blessed with. Knowing that as I enter into a community service project, I will receive no tangible prize, award, payment, or gift, is more rewarding than spending my time on me, and my wants, and my own activities. “I would never want to reach out someday with a soft, uncallused hand –a hand never dirtied by serving— and shake the nail-pierced hand of Jesus” –Bill Hybels