By Deanna Stone
The Crown (Wilmette, Illinois)
Service and giving back to those in need are valuable experiences in life. The skills learned and memories made by those who give back are priceless, and often influence a person for the rest of their lives. However, many teenagers may think that service hours are just something to put on a college applications, or something that only some people do.
These statements beg the questions: What is it that makes service so life-changing? Why should teenagers be required to do service before graduating high school?
The simple answer to the first question is that serving others can illustrate how blessed our lives are and that there are so many people in the world that need help. This may seem like a simple lesson to learn, and one that is often repeated many times throughout our lives, but to see it and experience this first hand makes it very real and tangible. It’s almost like seeing a natural wonder, because we have all heard of them and maybe even seen pictures of them, but experiencing them for yourself is something entirely different.
Also, service can make a student a more well-rounded person. Students will see people in need and be able to see how they can make a difference in someone else’s life. Whether it’s by feeding the hungry or playing games with children at day camp, volunteer work can expose different traits in yourself that you had never seen before.
For example, maybe you found some leadership qualities or compassion in your personality that you would not have known about before helping others. Or, maybe you developed a new skill through volunteer work that you would have never tried before. It’s impossible to know just how much giving back to those in need can change your life, but it’s an experience that has immense value if done with an open heart.
You may not know it, but the time spent volunteering can affect the rest of your life. Some of the valuable skills learned through these experiences might help you to get your dream job or might lead you to people that become great friends. Volunteering has a ripple effect—once you make the first move, the positive outcomes continue on in so many ascpects of your life. This is another reason why volunteering is so important to teenagers. We are at the beginning of our adult lives, and that means our experiences can place us on a path to follow for life.
My personal experiences with volunteer work have been very positive and they have influenced my life in a myriad of ways. My first experience with volunteer work was with Feed My Starving Children. There I worked in a team to pack meals for people across the world. I had so much fun that I did not even realize how much work we had accomplished. It was a great way to spend a couple of hours helping people that I would probably never meet in my lifeand still feel like I made a difference.
My most recent service was done at a nursing home specializing in care for adults with Alzheimer’s and dementia disease called Sunrise. During the summer, I spent a few hours a week with the residents of Sunrise. I played games with them, made crafts, and even just sat down and talked to them about their lives. It seemed like doing simple things at the time, but as a started to get to know some of the residents I realized that they truly appreciated my company. It was so powerful to feel so appreciated by people that were at one time strangers to me. I also realized that sometimes simply being a friend to someone can be so valuable.
Photo Credit: The Crown