"When the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change."

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Why do we serve?

So back when the Center for Community Service started its blog (in August), I began drafting a post with this question as its title, hoping this would set a foundation for how the Center’s blog would encourage students to engage in the necessary “reflection” element of participation in community service.

And, you know what?

I haven’t been able to write this post until now, and in case you were wondering, it’s April. Yes, April. I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately, especially as I consider where my time at Marquette has taken me and where it can take me because of the manner in which I have tied my participation in community service to the work that I do in the classroom and at work and as a leader on this campus.

In the past few months, I have tried to open this saved draft and write some perfect, little description of the importance of community service in my life and in our lives as students. But, each time I tried to come back to this question - no matter how long I’d spent reflecting on it in my life outside of my job here at the Center for Community Service, I found myself inevitably staring at a blank screen, completely stumped as to how I could answer this question.

And, that inability to answer what should have been an easy question for me to answer really frustrated me. As an active volunteer and a staff member of the CCS, I thought I would be able to come up with some concise, pithy phrase about how community service has impacted my life and give a perfect, comprehensive explanation of the reasons why I choose to participate in it.

But, I’ve had a hard time with this. Not because I do not have reasons for volunteering or not because I don’t want to acknowledge those reasons, but because trying to explain those reasons in a comprehensive manner through the written word is incredibly difficult. The past three years of extensive service involvement have taught me a lot more than how to wrap a meal that will be sent out to HeartLove Place or how to engage in conversation at Noon Run or how to lead other students in a service experience. They have taught me to recognize a new aspect of myself and helped me to develop a new vision, a new goal for how I want to contribute to my Marquette and Milwaukee community.

My reasons for participating in community service continue to change with each service experience I have, with each conversation I am blessed to engage in, and with my continued reflections on my desire to make service the heart of my lifestyle, rather than just something I participate in during my free time. But, I can’t say that there aren’t reasons for my participation in community service that haven’t threaded through every experience I’ve had - whether I recognized it then or not.

So, when I think about why I serve, I can’t help but say that I serve because of the following thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I hope you can relate to some of them and if not, I hope you consider practicing some reflection on your service work so that you can begin to define for yourself what drives you, what empowers you, and what encourages you to participate in community service.

1. We serve because we’ve fallen in love. We love the people with whom we serve, we love the work that the organizations accomplish on a daily basis. We love the stories that we hear. We love becoming part of something that is good, something that really seems to matter.

2. We serve because we hope to learn something new. We want to learn about the people we are walking with throughout out service experiences. We want to learn about the injustices that the communities we are serving have to face. We want to learn about more ways we can get involved. We want to learn about others. We want to learn about ourselves.

3. We serve because we hope to connect to the community. We serve because we hope to connect the parts of the world that seem lost, broken, and unjust. We serve because we hope to connect ourselves to something meaningful, something that will impact us in a profound way.

4. We serve because we find something life-giving in the process of meeting someone where they are in their journey of life. We find it life-giving to sweat all day and be covered in mud after a day rebuilding homes. We find it life-giving to see the face of someone hungry as he receives food. We find it life-giving to share in that hunger. We find it life-giving to fight against ignorance and injustice. We find it life-giving to see the world at greater peace, even if just for a few moments, and to know that we participated in contributing to that peace.

5. Finally, we serve because we believe that we can do something and that we can do it very well. And, we believe that the something that we can do is dare to be something and do something more for and with others.


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April is National Volunteer Month!

How will you celebrate this month of volunteering? 

Yes, I know the semester is coming rapidly to an end and you are probably trying to wind down and let go of some of your extra commitments. But, can I pose a challenge? 

Since you’ve been doing some spring cleaning in your schedule, you’ve made room to start giving back to others in our community. And, the Volunteer Center of Greater Milwaukee has some awesome ways for you to start doing just that.

And, remember, the Center for Community Service is always here to help you connect to our community. We love hearing your service stories and we are always looking for more to post here on our blog, so if you’ve got a service story or two, you know where you can share it.

In the meantime, be sure to check out this list of opportunities.


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