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Better than a diet: why Service Learning isn’t lame

Community service as a requirement may seem strange, but it is truly worthwhile.

As a first-year student I held the popular belief that it was ridiculous for the school to force us into community service. It should be a choice, not a requirement, right?

It was easy to hold this belief until I actually started my community service and realized how important it really was. I could almost hear the phrase “I told you so” reverberating in my head.

I was involved with Habitat for Humanity for my service learning. This experience consisted of waking up at seven on Saturday mornings, dressing in my grungiest clothes and doing hard manual labor for six hours.

The labor was well beyond my physical comfort level and, being the shortest in the group, I was sent to the top of a ladder to spackle a ceiling (If you have never spackled, let me tell you, it’s hard and frustrating work).

After several hours of spackling a kitchen at the house in which we were working I got a chance to see the neighborhood. It was then that the proverbial light bulb turned on.

The homes were run down and completely unkempt. Many of the houses had boarded up windows and doors, and their backyards, which were already cramped for space, served mainly as dumping zones. Coming from a small town in suburbia, I was shocked.

As I walked back into the kitchen, I realized that I had never seen the way many people live without being involved in the program.

After arriving back on campus, dirtier than I had ever been in my life and sore in places I never knew existed, I felt fulfilled in a way I never had before.

I realized that, had I not done Service Learning, I probably would have slept most of the day, watched a couple of movies and consumed enough junk food to gain a few pounds. Instead, I made a difference by contributing my time to the future of a family.

One day, a family who otherwise couldn’t afford a home of their own will be sitting in that kitchen enjoying dinner. In part, it will be because I spent a few of my Saturday afternoons spackling on a ladder.

God calls us to serve. But it wasn’t until I came to Eastern that I truly understood the meaning of being a “vessel” for others.

As vessels we become people through whom God can work. We should not merely volunteer for the sake of helping, but with the intent of showing God’s love and fulfilling his call on our lives.

Now, as a sophomore, I miss the delighted faces of the people in the neighborhood and the silly conversations of volunteers.

To be honest, I even miss the feeling of dried spackle caked all over my face.

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