What is service? I found myself thinking this upon my return from my Spring Break “Service” Trip. I kept looking back at my week and tried to determine what services I provided. I never fed the homeless, built a house, or tutored kids. Did I serve? Yes? Maybe? Honestly, at first I didn’t know. But then I started thinking about my experiences with my group and the people at our host site, the White Rose. We shared laughs and knowledge, food prep and clean up duties, floor space and house work. We were together, we were whole. We listened and spoke with intention. We created a safe space where all of us felt comfortable sharing opposing, contradictory, and scattered thoughts and feelings. We served each other. By becoming vulnerable and open we were able to be honestly present physically, mentally, and emotionally for each other. No one needed a hand out, no one needed food or clothes or shelter, but we did need love, acceptance, and community. We provided each other with the support that allowed ourselves to be so truly authentic that we could connect with ourselves, and each other, on a deeper level.
I realize now that those actions were my forms of service. Being a supporter and friend IS an act of service. Just staying in the room talking to the people on meal prep or dishes; asking questions about themselves so time could go more quickly and create a more pleasurable environment, IS a way of serving them. There might not be a physical reminder of the service I provided, but there is a profound change within the people I interacted with, as well as inside myself, that proves to me how much my presence and openness mattered to this experience.
I learned so much this past week about myself, but I know that would not have been possible without the service of the people around me. Their authenticity and intensity was contagious. I was there to serve them, but in the end I would say they served me much more than I them.
I want to send my gratitude to the coordinators of the trips, my wonderful White Rosers, and all the people I came in contact with in Chicago. Through learning this new definition of service, I have come to the conclusion that I can dedicate my life to the service of others without changing any of my future goals. Service is a mindset and attitude just as much as it is an action. Motivation matters, and I plan to use my motivation to live as a servant of humanity.