When someone says “service hours,” what do you think? Is it something you have to do to meet requirements or something that you will do voluntarily? Is it a tool to get into college or to better your community? No matter what your mind automatically goes to, service is service. You are helping others no matter what your motivation.
There are two sides of the spectrum when it comes to doing service hours. There is the side of people who do service hours for the hours, like a requirement, and there are people who do service hours because they love doing service. There is no inherently bad way to get service hours or one better way than the other. No matter what your reasons, you are still helping another in need of help.
The reasons for service hours for people who feel it a requirement are usually the same for everyone: college, hour requirements to meet, or an organizational requirement. Organizations that are even meant to be about service still have participants feeling the pressure to fulfill their required hours. Girl Scouts, for example, is an organization that centers around service; yet in order for the scouts to upgrade to a new award, additional service hours are required. To earn the Gold Award, the highest ranking award equivalent to an Eagle Scout, a scout needs to obtain a minimum of 80 hours. This isn’t including hours needed to obtain a Bronze or Silver Award. However, considering all these required hours, most girl scouts are happy to do it. As Gold Award recipient Nikole Tzioufas put it, “I enjoyed the process of carrying out this project [Gold Award] and I didn’t feel like I was doing the service just to get it done because I was so passionate about helping and giving back.”
Tzioufas has been a Girl Scout for 12 years and while she might have waived her enjoyment for service hours in her Brownie years (10-12 year olds), all of the service she has been doing has made her love the process. Even societies like NHS have service requirements that give kids mad dashes to places like Bernie’s Book Bank. As a member of NHS, one must do at least 10 hours of service a semester not including the 40 hours in order to get in. While you are allowed to uses hours since freshman year when applying, you still see people with booked Saturdays at Bernie’s and Feed My Starving Children. However, once these kids do all this service, many find it worth going back. As Volunteer Services Specialist for Bernie’s Book Bank Casey Barbknecht said when asked if it matters to Bernie’s if the kids that come in are doing it for hours,“We’ve had many students that originally came in to check off a requirement for graduation but ended up becoming frequent volunteers because they find the work fun and important.”
While some may think during these types of volunteer that kids throw in the towel and don’t care about what they are doing, it is quite the opposite. As the Head of NHS for Lake Forest High School for four years, Carolyn Konz said,“Again, while many different factors may lead them [the kids] to service, once they are there, they are assiduous, kind, and their best authentic selves.”
Once these kids end up at their required service event they find themselves getting into the work that they are doing and wanting to do the best they can do. Service is service and no matter the reason every hour makes a difference.
Now there is another side that cannot be ignored- the kids who do service because they genuinely love it. They do not think of the hours while doing something they love to do. They thrive when they are given service requirements since they have everything and then some done. There is also a type of service that these kids gravitate towards. It is not the three-hour event at their local non-profit. It is the big three week trip to another state or country to help people individually or interact with the people they are helping. This can be prompted either religiously or for a service trip, but either way the intent is to help others. A very common reason people go out into the world for a service trip is through a church or religious affiliation. Kids either go to a different state or country to help others through their church. When asked about her experience of a church affiliated work trip to Kentucky, senior Mary King said,“Our church stresses that doing good works and helping those who need it are a large part of faith, so that’s an aspect that isn’t usually considered in other forms of service.” King’s message about service is similar to Senior Adam Clayton’s response when asked a similar question about his church mission trip to India,“Ultimately, whenever you serve others, your goal is to help make their lives better, and I believe that sharing the gospel is the best way to do that.”
Both King’s and Clayton’s response show one way people do service and a very common way people do service. No matter your religious affiliation, service is a great way to spread and get closer to your faith. On the other hand, a lot of the times people will go out of state or country because they just want to do service. They want to make a difference in the world. Even if the service is over seas, just the little things go a long way. Seen through senior Sam Dueringer’s service experience when she visited an orphanage in Haiti for four days,“Simply giving a young girl a hair clip can brighten her day or even her week. I spent time with the same four kids while I was in Haiti and I think just listening to them and playing with them made a difference in each of their individual lives.”
Dueringer saw her actions making a difference on these children’s lives and that is always the reasons for service: making a difference in other’s lives. Sometimes, however, when you go to an undeveloped country there is more of a visible result for your kindness. Going overseas to do service allows for a different type of service experience as it involves a whole other culture. Not only is it a way to help others who really need it, but it is also a learning experience for those experiencing new cultures in the world.
In the end, service is service. Whether you go do an underdeveloped country or to your local Bernie’s Book Bank, you make a difference. Sometimes the difference is visible and instant while at other times it’s the little things you do to help the bigger process of helping others. You might actively seek service and other times it might be a requirement. Either way, in the end, you know you are making a difference. You are doing something to help another. Service is an amazing part of our society that allows us to help others in so many different ways. Either through requirements or enjoyment, service is service.