“You should really do more community service.”
“Why don’t you get your friends together and do some service this weekend?”
“I feel like your résumé is lacking a lot of service.”
Throughout high school, it was service this and service that—admission to college seemed virtually impossible to achieve without racking up hours upon hours of community service before applying, especially to a university that gravitates toward accepting students who reach out to the community.
The necessity to complete service regularly throughout our lives, imposed upon us by society, our parents and universities, has become so intense that it seems like a duty, a constant nagging reminder in our lives that we aren’t our best selves until we have raked a few leaves or wrapped a few presents.
Is this what service is really supposed to be about?
Although service is described as “the act of helping others,” I think real service, the kind that comes from the soul and liberates us from within, can’t be something that’s forced upon us.
That’s not the point.
You can rack up the hours of service but until you do it just to do it—not for applause, not for a pat on the back, not for access to that fast track toward success—you aren’t really helping anyone besides yourself.
I think the notion of legitimate service is a lost art. I think that individuals at our age—and it isn’t our fault—have been conditioned to feel obligated to do service so much that it has become a chore to us.
I think that it’s actually when we’re older—when we’re at last holding positions in our own jobs—that the real service starts.
Since we get paid to work, we think we aren’t really completing service, that it’s part of the job description. But I’ve realized that whether we like it or not, virtually every job out there aids others in some way.
And what makes it so genuine is that we are so blissfully unaware of it.
Think about it. And I don’t just mean the teachers, the firefighters, the police officers, the doctors—I mean every career will benefit someone else.
We are helping others in a way that is overlooked. We strive to be the student who does the most service, the most often and for the most people. And yet, the jobs we end up entering in to, are just a continuation of that service.
Don’t get me wrong. There are some—I’d even venture to say many of you out there—who not only acknowledge but are troubled by the flaws in this system of service.
You feel that no matter how much you do for others—even if, and we hate to admit it, it is for the résumé, to silence our parents’ pleas, or to look selfless in the eyes of our peers—it just feels pointless and almost counterfeit.
But fear not. That forged emotion that you are feeling will subside—and as you enter that mystical “real world,” you will become distracted by your new responsibilities, your job and your new adult persona.
And you will no longer feel pointless.
It may be hard to see now, but as an accountant, you aid others by sorting out their monetary affairs. As an engineer, you build or create to better society and make the lives of others easier or safer. As a psychologist, you help individuals navigate through their own personal demons. The list goes on and on.
We may be receiving paychecks for these actions, and they may have been listed under “duties of the job.” We may be aware that they’re simply what we’ve been taught to do and what is expected of us to complete diligently.
But we are helping each other with every career. We are relieving a burden for someone that they couldn’t have gotten rid of on their own—may it be that they didn’t have the means, the knowledge or the time. We, with our various careers, or vehicles for service, are there.
So although we may feel useless, fraudulent and unnecessarily competitive with one another when it comes to service, the work really doesn’t end here.
Society can impose this notion on us all it wants, but our futures are where the real service begins. When it seems like just part of the job, the need for recognition isn’t as pertinent as it seems to be right now.
Charles Dickens once said, “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another,” and he was right. Almost every career has the power to make someone else breathe a little easier, laugh a little harder and live a little better.