Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Service: a way of life.

As I look back to freshmen year, I remember entering my first Biology class with butterflies in my stomach. I grab a seat next to a girl with a bright smile; she said “I’m guessing you’re freshmen?” I feel my face flush with fire, and confirm her inquiry. I guess I had the word “freshmen” written on my forehead. Lucky for me, the girl was a sophomore who was very outgoing and friendly. She began to tell me about her freshmen year and how “CCSJ” really helped her meet new people and gain a better understanding of the Jesuit tradition. Then she realized that I had no clue what CCSJ stood for, and began talking about all of the volunteer opportunities available, especially for pre-heath students. Her excitement about CCSJ was contagious, so after class I traveled down into what she called “the bat cave” or Cohn Hall. At the time I didn’t understand how much this trip to CCSJ would impact my years to come at Loyola.

My life was forever changed by that moment. I began to volunteer at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, which inspired me to volunteer with other corporations. So I began volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, Meet and Eat, and St. Ambrose swim lessons. Each individual experience has taught me something new, and helped me see that service should be more then a one time event, but a practice present throughout life.

My appreciation for service has shown to bring more then just a positive experience, but a habitual need for service in my life. For example this semester I began the year off waiting for St. Ambrose swim lessons to start, without them I felt my stress level becoming more extreme. As soon as the first lesson was finished, my whole aspect on homework and class became more optimistic. The kids allow me to relax and release stress, while we provided them a safe haven to retreat, relax, and play. This mutual existence of happiness represents the positive aspects that result in service. Our relationship benefits both parties and provides everyone with a more positive attitude.

Service is the cycle of life, and by helping others, you help yourself in the understanding of life as a whole. The experiences hold a place in your heart forever and each individual occurrence transforms past perspectives and outlooks on life, aiding in spiritual growth and maturation. These volunteer opportunities taught me to learn through ‘contact’ and as Kolvenbach states, “When the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change” (34). I cherish every volunteer experience that I have done because each one has somehow touched my heart in a special way. Kolvenbach allowed me to see that without the Jesuit education, my life would feel somewhat empty, because I would not have been able to see the impact of service on my education and life as a whole.

Also Kolvenbach reflects on the meaning of Jesuit tradition in “The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice”, by discussing the importance of service and faith as a mutual relationship, and with out one the other cannot exist. “Personal involvement is the catalyst for solidarity which then gives rise to intellectual inquiry and moral reflection” (34) and through service a person receives more then hours of volunteer work to put on a résumé, but an experience to live by. These experiences help build the volunteer’s knowledge as a whole, inside and outside the classroom. When Kolvenbach refers to “moral reflection”, it makes me look back on my volunteer experiences and realize that each experience has brought me to think back on my faith and try to understand the situation at large.

Since I’m not a very religious person, ‘moral reflection’ allow me to see that faith can be in many forms. For instance, I have faith in the kids I work with; I know they can achieve anything they can imagine. This faith demonstrates a connection to service and the promotion of justice. My faith rests in the future, hoping that the kids will continue to learn and be inspired by the volunteers and catch the contagious act of service and apply it to their education.

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