Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Essay on Community Service
In the article “The Optimism of Uncertainty”, Howard Zinn states, “See engagement as an ongoing struggle, with victories and defeats, but in the long run slow progress. So you need patience and persistence” (Loeb, p. 64). In this article, Zinn emphasizes the importance of having hope and values, even in a seemingly cruel world. He also advises the reader to embrace strength and perseverance when carrying out a mission, especially at times when people feel powerless and beaten down by authority. In my opinion, community service begins with a vision for change, whether in a small group, community or the world. The need for change arises from a problem; therefore we are always going to run into obstacles. It is with determination, perseverance, and hope that we will overcome the obstacles and achieve success within our mission. In my own experience with the Cornucopia Care Baskets Project, I have found it challenging to receive a response from several hall directors. With the support of my group, we have decided to stay persistent by contacting the hall directors through phone calls, e-mails, hall meetings, and even personal visits. If one is determined to stay focused on the goals of a mission, then success is attainable. In addition, Zinn proclaims, “We don’t have to engage in grand heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people can transform the world” (Loeb, p.71). I agree with Zinn, that every action, however small, has a consequence. If our actions are positive, then they will have a positive effect. If we perform many small positive acts, then a magnificent world change is possible.
In comparison to Zinn’s idea of perseverance and strength, Nelson Mandela is an idealistic representation of these values. Nelson Mandela survived many years in prison during the apartheid in South Africa. His eternal strength, hope and courage supported his resistance to the brutal authorities. “But the authorities greatest mistake was keeping us together, for together our determination was reinforced. We supported each other and gained strength from each other. Whatever we knew, whatever we learned, we shared, and by sharing we multiplied whatever courage we had individually” (Loeb, p.73). This quote emphasizes the importance of people working together and having strength within a group. There are many ways to perform community service, but more can be accomplished when people work together. Not only does the number of people bring power to the group, but also more importantly each individual has certain traits or skills that they offer to the group. When morale is low, it is important for the group to reorganize, refocus on the goals at hand, and rebuild their strength. This is precisely how Nelson Mandela and his fellow inmates worked together to survive in prison. “There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lay defeat and death”, stated Nelson Mandela (Loeb, p.74).
Mandela offers a second piece of advice that I find important to community service. He states, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”(Loeb, p.81). Service, of any kind, requires respect for an individual. Rachel Remen also suggests this concept of respect in the article “Helping, Fixing, or Serving”. When we serve, we view people as our equals, and this in turn gives us a sense of gratitude. More people will be willing to participate in a project if you have respect for them. In my opinion, respect sparks motivation and cooperation within a group. In addition, the people you are serving will be grateful for your work, and they may possibly be inspired to serve others as well.
Respect for an individual derives from an understanding for that person. In “30 Methods of Influence” Stephen Covey claims that influencing people includes three categories: model by example, build caring relationships, and mentor by instruction. The category that I find to be most important in regards to community service is building caring relationships. This category includes performing service through love, preparing your mind and heart before talking to someone, and seeking to understand a person before being personally understood. I find this category to be most important because community service always involves emotions.
In regards to the Leadership Compass, I identity with the south, which entails an empathetic approach to leadership. This work style includes understanding how people need to receive information in order to act, integrating others input in determining the direction of what is happening, being supportive to colleagues, and being receptive to others’ ideas. This approach is feeling based and people that identify with this work style tend to trust their own emotions and intuition. I find a comparison between the “southern” empathetic approach to leadership, and the article by Steven Covey. Both argue that community service involves emotions and feeling. The best way to influence a person, or accomplish a mission, is to have an understanding for an individual, get to know people on a personal level, and recognize what people need.
In conclusion, the articles I have explored seem to share some common themes. They each made reference to the importance of perseverance and determination within a mission, having strength and hope, and lastly, that community service involves emotions. Personally, I believe our purpose in this world is to help one another. One of the biggest ways we can do this is through community service. Not only is the service provided important in itself, but also the influence we have on others is important and can motivate other people to act. Even if our actions are small, they do get noticed and have an impact on someone. Our positive actions can lead to a chain reaction, and therefore result in changing the world.
Remen, Rachel Naomi. “Helping, Fixing, or Serving?”. Kitchen Table Wisdom. September 1999.
Loeb, Paul R. The Impossible Will Take A Little While. Basic Books. New York, NY, 2004.
CORNUCOPIA Care Baskets, Fall 2009
~a helping hand for a better tomorrow~
In partnership with the Waysmeet Center @ UNH, the UNH Office of Community Service & Learning, and the Community Leadership Program (CoLead) @
the UNH Thompson School of Applied Science
Help us help people:
donate a food basket to Cornucopia to brighten someone’s Thanksgiving!
Our mission is to unite and strengthen our community to by providing food baskets and by increasing awareness about the hunger problem in our community.
~ CoLead students, Fall 2009
Lisa Ciccotelli: firstname.lastname@example.org, 862-0079