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You could be doing anything right now. You could be cramming for tomorrow morning’s Biology exam. You could be tweaking the conclusion of your English paper. You could be reviewing your manager’s quarterly report. Or, you could be comfortably propped up on the living room couch, catching up on Andrew Lincoln’s wasting of zombie hordes—blissfully, mindlessly. (Go Rick, go…)
But you’re not. Instead, contrary to the flow and demands of the day, you find yourself reading “Giving Community Service, Despite a Busy Schedule.” Really? How ‘bout “Living LIFE, Despite a Busy Schedule”? I hear you, I understand. Not only are you torn between a test and a paper, a lecture and a TV series, but you’re casually confronted with the topic of “community service” which, at least initially, has no discernable significance to your immediate life or wellbeing. Let’s say, however, that we do muster the motivation to give just a little bit of community service. What benefits would be had from it, despite our busy schedules?
The majority of young adults—and most likely yourself—who object to the prospect of giving community service typically do so on the grounds of being busy. They (and you) might say, “I have things to get done!” or “I’ll fall behind in school and work!” And those are perfectly valid sentiments. I, for one, am enrolled in fifteen credits at Brigham Young University. I’m also a writing tutor for the University, typically putting in ten hours a week. I’m also serving as a volunteer “elders quorum president” in my church, wherein I, among many other things, lead and facilitate church services and instruction for about forty men each Sunday. Also, I eat food, I try to get adequate sleep each night, and I attempt to socialize (if you can call it that). Sound familiar? So where—and why—should giving community service fit in with all this?
Well, despite how busy we are, giving community service can actually help us in our busyness; it can help us budget our time more effectively. Recently, a bright team of researchers decided to explore the effects of giving community service on adolescents’ development (and how post-service reflection aids in that development). In conclusion, they discovered that “[giving] community service … has positive effects on the way adolescents behave and think about school, themselves, others, and society,” including time management (Van Goethem et al. 2128). So if giving community service can lead to, among other things, a better budgeting of time, then perhaps it would be valuable to at least try confirming the research of these experts for ourselves. Just to see.
Now, corresponding with the busyness issue is its converse: the free-time issue. You might say, “Hey, I enjoy what free time I get!” And, as you would presume, so do I. Anything with the word free in it is worthy of laud, but free time is something uniquely cherishable. But what do we really mean by “free time”? Not having things to do—not having pressing matters to tend to, sure. But what exactly is enjoyable about the temporary absence of chores? Really it’s the peace of mind that we feel in an otherwise crowded, chaotic day; it’s the relief that our overworked minds experience from not having to continuously juggle and analyze a myriad of tasks. So when we say we enjoy “free time,” really we’re saying we enjoy the peace and relief—the feelings—associated with free time. Splitting hairs? Let’s see.
Having established the semantics, giving community service can indeed help us experience those same pleasant feelings associated with free time (or at least a worthwhile degree of them). As if talking to your friends about their personal experiences with community service wasn’t enough, consider the results of some scholarly research. Robert Serow, a professor of pedagogy at North Carolina State University, decided to investigate the motives for people’s giving of community service. He discovered that, in doing so, people typically end up obtaining what they’re motivated by, such as “friendship, helping other people, … pleasure/new experience[s], professional satisfaction, religion/spiritual fulfillment, recognition from others, social justice/equality,” and “peace,” among other things (548). There it is: peace. If peace and stillness are what you truly seek after during free time, then take heart in the fact that they can also be found by giving community service. Again, see for yourself!
Finally, you might say, “I’ll miss out on social opportunities!” I know! Why would you spend a Saturday giving community service when you could be watching a BYU basketball game with friends? (BYU basketball? Fine, different team.) Why would you spend an afternoon picking up trash with others when you could be arduously doing homework in study groups at the library? Why would you associate with other peers—familiar and new—while assisting the elderly or improving the community when you could, I don’t know, crowd yourself against sixty sweaty strangers at an earsplitting rave in your old roommate’s basement?
Ah, there it is… Can giving community service actually provide you with opportunities to socialize with peers, along with (or in replacement of) subpar activities you might otherwise be engaged in? Apparently so. In Serow’s previously quoted research, “friendship” is usually one of the assets obtained through giving community service. In addition to that, Darian Smith, founder of the Community Service Division of the National Federation of the Blind, said that “finding an opportunity to [give community service] can build your confidence, connect you with new friends, and open your mind to new possibilities” (26). In the experiences of Smith, as well as the experiences of myself and of my friends, acquaintances are just waiting to be had and solidified for the coming decades, and giving community service is an excellent medium for forging those friendships.
Schedules are tough to balance. After cramming in school, work, relationships, and sleeping, where’s room for giving community service, let alone time off? As we’ve seen though, giving community service can actually help us budget our time more effectively, and it can help us experience a refreshing, uplifting state of mind. It can help us meet new people and bond with familiar friends. So given all these wonderful reasons, why not try lending a hand next Saturday afternoon? Why not get a few friends to help out at the senior center down the street, or pick up some trash at the community park? Doesn’t seem so strenuous now, does it, but ultimately, the choice is yours. (Remember: baby steps.)
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